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Hodge to face no confidence vote

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Surrey CC leader David Hodge (Con) will face a vote of no confidence at a council meeting next week.

An application for an urgent motion proposed by the Liberal Democrat group leader Hazel Watson was approved today and Cllr Hodge’s position will be considered by councillors on Tuesday.

The motion states simply that “this council has no confidence in the leader of the council”.

Cllr Watson has previously called on Cllr Hodge to resign as leader, arguing his credibility had been undermined by the circumstances surrounding a decision to abandon a proposal for a referendum on a 15% council tax rise last month.

The Surrey Conservative group currently holds 58 of 81 seats on the council, with the Liberal Democrats the second largest party with nine.

When asked whether she expected to gain significant support for the motion, Cllr Watson told LGC: “I hope councillors make a decision on their vote in the best interests of Surrey residents.”

She said Cllr Hodge had rightly sought fairer funding for Surrey but added he had approached it in “totally the wrong way with the use of secrecy, calling in favours, ’gentleman’s agreements’ and an unwillingness to share vital information with elected councillors and residents”.

A separate motion proposed by Cllr Hazel on the agenda for next week’s meeting calls for chief executive David McNulty to lead a review to ensure the council “operates in a more open and transparent way”.

Cllr Hodge was unanimously re-elected as leader by the council’s Conservative group at its annual general meeting last week. LGC understands he was not challenged for the role.

Yesterday LGC reported that fellow Conservative leaders of other county councils had questioned whether Cllr Hodge should seek re-election as leader of the party’s group at the Local Government Association, following events surrounding the referendum vote.

Last month leaked texts sent by Cllr Hodge suggested Surrey had done a deal with the government on social care funding ahead of the planned referendum vote on 7 February.

Since then a recording of Cllr Hodge emerged saying he had received assurances from government that action would be taken to address funding pressures on social care.

Later disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act revealed growing tensions between Cllr Hodge and communities secretary Sajid Javid ahead of the vote.

The disclosure included a text message exchange between who is believed to be Surrey director of finance Sheila Little and Department of Communities and Local Government finance official Matthew Style, during which Ms Little referred to a suggestion that the government would “get us some extra funding from 2018”.

Cllr Hodge and the government deny a deal was struck to prevent the referendum vote.

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