Tim Oliver Surrey County Council leader

Tory leader pleads with Tory Government


Taxpayers in Surrey are likely to be hit with a 5 per cent rate rise because the one-year Government funding package won’t cover the county council’s £13.5 million budget gap, its leader said.

Surrey County Council will need to make tough decisions on services as it tries to protect money for children, adults and roads, because they “matter most to residents”.

In November the county council passed its draft budget which showed the huge gap between income and the cost of providing services. Leader of the Council, Councillor Tim Oliver had hoped to convince government officials of the need to increase funding to local authorities that suffered a decade of austerity.  The Government’s decision means the county council must now “see how it gets to a point where its budget is balanced”.

Cllr Oliver, speaking at the Tuesday, December 19 executive committee, said: “It had been my hope and expectation that money would have come from the Government in the form of new money. That would have enabled us to have delivered the services that we want to deliver. The improved service.”

He said the Government’s offer of a 6.5 per cent increase would normally have been “very welcome” but that it had been an “unusual year”. He told the meeting “I’m afraid for the foreseeable future things are going to be considerably more difficult than they have been.”

Much of that was due to the double-digit inflation figures, huge increases in demand for services, and wage growth which have seen council costs surge. He said: “We are now faced with the situation where we have the £13.5m gap and I’m afraid the consequence of that is we will no longer be able to restrict council tax increase by 3.99 per cent which was the proposal in our budget last month.

“We will now have to raise council tax by the maximum we are allowed to do which is 5 per cent, 3 per cent on the base and 2 per cent for social care precept. There needs to be recognition from this Government, and indeed any future Government,  that the services we provide are the services that are the most in demand.”

Council tax in Surrey is made up of three parts, the largest goes to the county council, with an additional amount paying for policing. About 12 per cent of the overall bill goes to the borough or district councils. If the county council were to raise its share by 4.99 per cent it, a Band D property would jump from £1,675.08 to £1,758.67.

That would mean residents in Woking, who are facing a potential 10 per cent increase in their local share would have to pay about £2,338.65 – before any increase from the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Cllr Oliver said there simply needed to be more money going into the system, adding: “We are talking about services for the most vulnerable in our communities. I would implore this government to recognise the issues we have raised. I would implore them to sit down with us and re-evaluate exactly what our needs are. These are issues that are outside of our control and we can not go on with this hand to mouth approach.” Further investment, he said, simply won’t be possible.

Related reports:

Surrey County chief talks to the BBC

County CEO’s pay rise triggering strikes?

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