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Freeze Council Tax Say Surrey Lib Dems

Published on: 30 Jan, 2013
Updated on: 1 Feb, 2013

Council Tax Bill cropped 470

Liberal Democrats at Surrey County Council, in Kingston, are calling for a Council Tax freeze in response to the Conservative administration’s intention to raise Council Tax Bills by 1.9%.

Fiona White, Lib Dem Surrey County Councillor for Guildford West said, “This is the second year where Surrey Conservatives have chosen to put up council tax instead of accepting the government’s offer of support. At a time when hard-working people are finding their personal budgets more difficult, I think it is irresponsible to ask them to pay more in council tax when it is not necessary.  

“I think Eric Pickles [Conservative, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government] has got it right and the Conservative administration should use their excessive reserves to help Surrey residents while still protecting front-line services.”

Guildford Borough Council’s Executive agreed, last Thursday (January 24), to propose to the next full council meeting that their element of the council tax is also increased by 1.99%.

“For the past two years Guildford Borough Council (GBC) froze the council tax and for the previous six years it delivered below-inflation council tax increases in order to keep pace with rising costs.  This year, after very careful consideration, we in the Conservative Group, feel it is critical that we take a longer-term view.

…we feel it is critical that we take a longer-term view – Cllr Stephen Mansbridge, Conservative GBC Leader

“By making a small, below-inflation increase this year we will avoid having to make stark increases in the future.  We are by no means alone; two-thirds of the country’s local authorities are planning council tax increases this year.”

But Hazel Watson, the Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition on Surrey County Council said: “Last year the Conservatives imposed a 2.99% Council Tax increase on Surrey residents. They were one of only two county councils that didn’t accept the Government’s freeze. Liberal Democrats at the time opposed the excessive increase.

“Since then, instead of spending all of this additional money on services, the Conservatives have squirrelled away over 1% of the increase into reserves, while under spending by £6 million, the equivalent of another 1% on Council Tax. This proves they didn’t have to make Surrey Council Taxpayers pay such a massive increase last year, and as a result they should freeze the Council Tax this year.

Conservatives hoard £207 million while pleading poverty and putting up Council Tax – Lib Dem Spokesperson

“But it gets worse. The Conservative administration is calling for Surrey’s Council Taxpayers to find an extra £11 million out of their pockets. But the Council has £135 million in Cash Reserves, council officers have advised that the Cash Reserves could be decreased to £49 million, meaning that £86 million is available to protect services and freeze Council Tax.

“In addition the County Council has £87 million in Earmarked Reserves and £28 million in General Balances on top of the £6 million under spend. A total of £207 million that the Conservative run County Council is hoarding away while asking Surrey residents to pay more.

“Eric Pickles has offered councils the equivalent of a 1% Council Tax increase from central government if they freeze Council Tax, and Surrey County Council should accept his offer. Surrey’s Conservative leadership can’t continually complain that the County gets an unfair deal from government, then turn down government money while hitting the pockets of local residents.

“Surrey’s Conservatives are claiming that they have to put up tax, but to quote their own Conservative Secretary of State ‘…given the rise in reserves, it was disappointing and irresponsible that some sections of local government chose to scare the public with predictions of doom and gloom.’

“Surrey’s Conservatives have shown that they are happy to waste Council Taxpayers money, whether on the development costs of their ill-fated and unpopular on street parking proposals, the abandoned plans to spend £5 million (equivalent to 1% on Council Tax) on a Magna Carta Centre at Runnymede, expensive legal action over their plans to run libraries with volunteers (which was meant to save money but has failed to do so) or the overnight stays of the Conservative Cabinet at Farnham Castle.

“Surrey Conservatives should listen to Brandon Lewis, the Conservative Under Secretary of State in the Department for Communities and Local Government, who said: ‘Councils should cancel away-days at posh hotels as a practical way of saving taxpayers’ money. If Surrey County Council stopped such waste and inefficiency, it could freeze council tax this year and protect frontline services.’

“It is high time the Conservative administration at County Hall started thinking about Surrey residents.” 

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Responses to Freeze Council Tax Say Surrey Lib Dems

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    January 30, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    How is it that a Tory Controlled Council can go against it own Government Minister?

    Council tax is totally unfair as it takes no consideration of the householders ability to pay.

    In fact, those people living in lower priced houses pay almost as much as those amongst us living in higher priced property and who have more disposable income.

    Also those absentee buy-to-let landlords who let to the growing number of student pay no local tax at all. At the last count there were over 1300 such properties!

    One solution would be to abolish Council Tax altogether and put all local finance on to the central rate support grant.

    If the Tory controlled council cannot support Tory policy why should Tory voters support them?

    Remember, this year is County Election Year.

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