It was announced last week that Surrey County Council have decided to restrict the increase in council tax to 4.99%. The Council were due to hold a referendum to raise local tax by 15% to cover the rising cost of social care.
There was much speculation, particularly from the Labour Party, that a ‘sweetheart deal’ had been made so as to avoid any potential referendum. A referendum is required to agree on a proposed council tax rise of 5% and above, but plans for the vote were dropped at the recent full meeting of Surrey County Council to allow councillors to consider an alternative budget. The leader of the Council has intimated that an alternative will be proposed, which no doubt prompted Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘sweetheart deal’ comments, believing more money has been made available from the Government to the Council to cover social care costs.
The leader of Surrey County Council, David Hodge, dismissed the ‘sweetheart deal’ claims. Mr Hodge said “Surrey’s decision not to proceed with the 15% council tax increase was ours alone and there has been no deal between Surrey County Council and the Government. However, I am confident that the Government now understands the pressures in adult social care and the need for a lasting solution”.
Whichever way we look at it, this 4.99% increase is significantly higher than the original precept set out by the Government to increase council tax and may of course start a flood of further requests for increases of up to that amount.
Make of all that what you will but hopefully Mr Hodge’s comment that the Government are starting to understand the real pressures will turn into reality and a proper fix for social care will be reached.