Surrey CC has thrown out plans to hold a referendum on a 15% council tax increase in 2017-18 to address adult social care funding pressures.
Instead the council plans to raise tax bills by 4.99% - made up of the 3% social care precept and 1.99% regular council tax - which is within the government’s referendum thresholds.
Surrey CC David Hodge (Con) tabled a surprise last minute amendment to the council tax proposal at a meeting of full council today and said he had received assurances from government that action would soon be taken over social care funding. Last week, communities secretary Sajid Javid hinted the government is considering further action on resources for social care.
During the debate Cllr Hodge said: “The government now understands this crisis and is increasingly committed to resolving it. This administration believes there is now a solution.
“We have had many conversations with government. Government has listened and we believe government understands.
“I am confident and reassured that they have accepted the need for more sustainable funding for adult social care – we will see action on this issue in the coming days and months.”
He added that the government had recognised Surrey had been unfairly “penalised” under the current funding framework and had promised to “refresh” the system through its plan for 100% business rates retention by 2020.
A number of opposition councillors called on Mr Hodge to reveal exactly what assurances he had received from government over social care, but no further detail was forthcoming.
They also raised concerns that the new proposals would lead to a use of reserves that would take them down to what the section 151 officer described as a “dangerous level”.
Cabinet member for economic prosperity Peter Martin (Con) responded by saying that following discussions with government there was “greater certainty that there is a solution [to social care funding] in the mid to long term”.
Graham Ellwood (Con) later praised the administration for the “work they had done to secure a better deal from government”.
Councillors voted 53 in favour of the amendment, with 18 against and one abstention.
In an interview with LGC last month Surrey CC’s Conservative leader David Hodge blamed the Tory government for the county’s plans to hold a referendum on a 15% council tax increase for 2017-18.