Surrey Council proposes 15 per cent council tax hike

Surrey County Council has confirmed it is seeking to increase council tax by 15 per cent, a move which could lead to a county-wide referendum, in a bid to plug a gap in social care costs.

Under current rules, the county council can only increase its tax by an additional 4.99 per cent each year – three per cent of which is ring-fenced for adult social care – and must hold a referendum to raise a larger amount.

If backed, the move could mean the current 2016/17 council tax figure for a band D property, £1,268,28, could be pushed up by £190.24 per year.

According to the latest Surry CC census statistics (November 2015), 17.2 per cent of the region’s population are aged 65 and over, higher than the national average in England which was recorded at 16.3 per cent. Furthermore, the percentage of 18-24 year olds stood at 8.7 per cent, lower than the national average of 9.4 per cent. Thus there is some scope to postulate that the authority's social costs are marginally larger than the national average.

In a statement, David Hodge, councillor leader, said: “We have to set a budget that will protect vital services for Surrey residents. The government has cut our annual grant by £170m since 2010 - leaving a huge gap in our budget.

“Demand for adults social care, learning disabilities and children's services is increasing every year. 

“So I regret, despite us finding £450 million worth of savings from our annual budget, we have no choice but to propose this increase in council tax.”

Councillor Hazel Watson, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, has expressed strong opposition to the plan: “Liberal Democrat councillors on SCC oppose this huge increase in council tax which would be the largest increase in the country. A 15 per cent increase would be unaffordable for many Surrey residents and would hit the elderly and those on fixed-incomes hardest. It would be quite wrong for the council to try and shift this funding problem onto Surrey residents.

"The crisis in the funding of adult social care needs a long-term solution from national government not a temporary sticking plaster, which is what a large council tax rise would offer.”

The proposals will be debated at the next full council meeting on February 7.