The leader of financially-stricken Surrey CC has announced he is standing down as council leader.
David Hodge (Con) informed the Surrey’s Conservative group on Friday of his intentions to resign as group leader. A spokesperson for the Conservative Group said that an internal group process would now take place, with a new leader expected to be appointed on 23 November.
LGC earlier reported that Cllr Hodge was expected to make an announcement on his, and the council’s, future tomorrow.
Cllr Hodge initially declined to comment when contacted by LGC this morning but he has now released a statement confirming his decision to resign as leader.
He said: “I decided two years ago that I would like to step down now. It has been an honour and privilege to lead Surrey since 2011.
“I am very proud of what we have achieved during my leadership and my time as deputy leader – in particular the £540m of savings and efficiencies we have found since 2010, the building of tens of thousands of extra school places and the fantastic improvements to our roads through Operation Horizon.
“I would like to thank members, officers and everyone else who has helped with these achievements.”
Cllr Hodge told a local newspaper last month that he would “most likely” step down from the council at the next election in 2021.
Surrey’s deputy leader John Furey (Con) earlier told LGC: “The group had all agreed that they would maintain silence until officially a statement would be made by the leader tomorrow and I think, to a degree, you really do need to understand what he’s about to say tomorrow and how it will affect the ongoing council and its focus on driving forward.”
Surrey is facing a funding gap of £36m in 2018-19 rising to £86m by the end of 2019-20. This rises to £94m the following year.
A recent resilience report by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy found the council “will not have sufficient reserves to meet its expected budget gap in 2019-20” without changes to its approach.
Chris Batten, leader of Surrey’s Liberal Democrat group, said: “A change of leadership will not progress the long-term viability of the county council and his successor will have an enormously challenging role, both in terms of establishing his or her own credibility as well as the fact that the council has a sustainable future.”
Cllr Hodge resigned as leader of the Conservative group on the Local Government Association last March after he came under pressure from within his own party to step down from the role following leaked texts sent by him suggested Surrey had done a deal with the government on social care funding ahead of a planned 15% council tax referendum vote. While he stepped down from the LGA role, he did survive a vote of no confidence motion tabled that same month by opposition members on Surrey.
Responding to the news Simon Edwards, director of the County Councils Network, said: “Over the past seven years, David has been a powerful advocate for county authorities, both locally and nationally in his role as County Councils Network (CCN) chairman.
“As CCN chairman he oversaw a period of transformation at the network, where CCN became an influential national organisation – laying the foundations for our subsequent successes over the last three years. Having led Surrey through a challenging financial period, we wish him well in his future endeavours.”