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County Council Leader Survives ‘No Confidence’ Motion But Quits LGA Role

Published on: 22 Mar, 2017
Updated on: 22 Mar, 2017

SCC leader David Hodge

Conservative Surrey County Council leader David Hodge easily survived a no confidence motion proposed by the leader of the Liberal Democrats Hazel Watson yesterday (March 21) at County Hall in Kingston upon Thames.

But in a surprise move he announced that he was quitting as the leader of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Conservative group following the political furore over the so-called Nickileaks affair.

Writing in The Municipal Journal, Cllr Hodge said: “It’s clear others want someone leading the LGA Conservative group with a different approach.

“They may want someone who will ruffle fewer feathers and so I have decided to resign from my position at the LGA.”

During his time in post, Cllr Hodge was heavily involved in working with the Government to introduce the social care precept.

The motion of no confidence at County Hall came in the wake of the U-turn made by the Conservative group over a proposal to hold a referendum on whether council tax should be increased by 15%.

From the outset, given the dominance of the Conservative party, there appeared little real prospect of the motion succeeding, despite some signs of discontent within Tory ranks. Around five Tory councillors are thought to have absented themselves from the vote or abstained.

In the unrecorded vote, only eight councillors, all Lib Dems, voted in support of the motion,  47 voted against and there were 12 abstentions, including at least two UKIP councillors and, it is believed, the Green Party member.

County Cllr Keith Witham (Con, Worplesdon), who spoke in the debate, told The Guildford Dragon: “The Lib Dem call for a vote of no confidence in David Hodge rebounded on them. By strongly lobbying the Government for more money for Surrey, he was doing exactly what he should be.

Worplesdon county councillor Keith Witham.

“And we learned today that there will be some £20 million extra from the government for Adult Social Care in Surrey in the next three years. Not enough, but £20 million more than before. So well done to Cllr Hodge for standing up for Surrey residents”

In a press release issued yesterday Cllr Watson said: “Today’s vote has denied the residents of Surrey the fresh start that was so desperately needed. It does not solve the excessive secrecy within the council, which has been the hallmarks of Cllr Hodge’s leadership, nor does it repair the council’s damaged reputation with the people it was elected to serve.

Cllr Hazel Watson, leader of the Lib Dems

“This decision means that Conservative councillors have endorsed Cllr Hodge’s 15% council tax strategy, which was totally and utterly rejected by the people of Surrey.

“I note that almost a fifth of the Conservative Group did not vote for the leader or did not show up today – hardly a ringing endorsement. I therefore look forward to the County Council elections in May where residents can have the final say on this discredited administration”

Cllr Fiona White (Lib Dem, Guildford West), said this morning (March 22): “I am still angry with Cllr Hodge for continuing to peddle his proposal for a 15% council tax increase in Surrey, even though he had a report from CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) which said that he would lose the referendum to make that happen.

“It is interesting that he had to be forced into releasing that report which was not circulated to all councillors until after yesterday’s meeting. It is obvious that he was only using that threat to put pressure on the Conservative government – his own government.

“A lot of people in the county on low or fixed incomes were very worried about the possibility of such a council tax hike.  Like Hazel Watson, I think it is a shame that he is still in his post.  Trying to reach a secret “gentlemen’s agreement” has done a lot to damage Surrey’s reputation.”

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