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SCC Lib Dem Leader ‘Horrified’ At Recorded Talk of Council Tax Referendum

Published on: 8 Mar, 2017
Updated on: 8 Mar, 2017

SCC sign Surrey County Council

Hazel Watson, leader of the Liberal Democrats at Surrey County Council (SCC), issued a statement about a leaked recording of council leader David Hodge explaining to fellow Conservatives what had been agreed with the government over council funding.

Cllr Watson said: “I am horrified that despite huge public opposition the leader of the council is talking about a referendum and a large council tax rise next year – he has clearly not listened to local residents.

“The transcript of the Conservative group meeting begs the question: what does the leader of the council have in writing? It suggests a deal between the Conservative administration at Surrey County Council with the government and that the leader of the council wants to keep it under wraps. This contradicts his previous statements denying that a deal had been done with the government.

“These secrets do not do anyone any favours in local government. What is needed is a long term solution for the funding gap for adult social care and how we fund services across the country.”

The leader of Surrey County Council, David Hodge.

Below is an extract of the BBC’s transcript attached to the Lib Dem statement:

Cllr Hodge: I want an assurance that people will not put what I am about to say on a Tweet.

Sounds of others saying “Agreed”

Cllr Hodge: …. So I was able to come in this morning and ask Helen Clack [county councillor]  and Peter [possibly Peter Martin deputy leader] to join me in the office while a series of conversations took place with the Secretary of State for local government, in his car outside number 10 Downing Street, looking for assurances, looking for clarification, looking for help basically. On how we could stop a referendum. He then went inside and spoke to the Chancellor, I think I can say that. The spad [Special Political Adviser] was waiting… and then the spad rang me with what we can and cannot say. There are certain things we cannot say and yes there are certain risks but I’m going to be commending that we go for a 4.99 % council tax.

The issue for me has always been 18/19 and 19/20 when we lose learning disability. We have done a huge amount of work with officials and officers but the govt is very clear that they want to push forward the fairer funding review…

We have agreed this morning that subject to them agreeing that if it is possible we will become part of that process going forward. …

Some of my friends will say you have to have it in writing, but there are sometimes a leader has to make a judgement call. It is really important that you understand who was in the room at the time I made the judgement call. The deputy leader was, and Helen was and she has huge experience.. the chief executive was in on the phone listening for two hours, the deputy chief exec.

We listened carefully to the information that was being relayed back to us and yes, on the one hand Tony is absolutely right we should get something in writing, but on the other hand I do have something in writing, that Helen knows I have in writing, Sir Paul Beresford knows I have in writing which gives me a certain amount of comfort.

But I’m not going to release that information for obvious reasons. There may come a time that what I call gentleman’s agreements, that the Conservative Party often does, are not honoured we will have re-visit this in nine months or a years time. If we do – I will assure you will have to drag me kicking and screaming not to go for a referendum next year.

There are risks attached to what we are going to do I want to make that clear but I have witnesses who have recorded everything that was said and we have a gentleman’s agreement with the chancellor and the secretary of state that we will sort the funding out for the following year.

Up until 11 o’clock yesterday morning we thought we would have a resolution for this year but it wasn’t possible but we can get a referendum for next year. But after today please don’t text or tell anyone what we’ve done or send anyone a note that we’ve got a solution.

Female questioner: People are going to ask: “Have we done a deal?”

Hodge: We are in a different situation , the government has listened to us. All I’m going to say is that we are now at a point where we can go forward. David Mack [probably David McNulty, chief executive SCC] said “say as little as possible, say this, and sit down.”

A government spokesperson told the BBC: “As we have repeatedly made clear, there was no special deal… they will not receive any extra funding that would not otherwise be provided or offered to other councils.

“To imply the opposite is simply untrue.”

Asked to comment on the Lib Dem statement County Councillor Keith Witham (Con, Worplesdon) said: “I don’t like the whole concept of leaks and will not comment on them.”

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Responses to SCC Lib Dem Leader ‘Horrified’ At Recorded Talk of Council Tax Referendum

  1. Chris Quin Reply

    March 8, 2017 at 11:23 am

    David Hodge seems content to use the threat of holding the ratepayers of Surrey to ransom whenever he wants to exert pressure on the government. To him we are just pawns in a power game. He may find that we are not come election time.

  2. Alan Cooper Reply

    March 8, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    It is time for David Hodge to go after this sleazy transaction that was denied but has been exposed on the BBC.

    Then the wage structure needs examining as there is no doubt Surrey County Council have been inefficient with our money and wasted very much of it. Then there is his very high allowance, well over £225,000 plus assistant and so on. We really could save some money here.

    If he is foolish enough to believe that he might have a referendum next year then not only is he mistaken but naïve. He will be out of office by then as a majority of the Surrey population will say, and have already said, “No!”

  3. John Robson Reply

    March 8, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    There’s no such thing as a political “leak”, this is all carefully choreographed by the spin doctors; things are always done for a reason.

    My view on this is that our local Conservative party is attempting to portray that they’re fighting the taxpayers corner as it’s election time, when in reality they’re obviously in cahoots with the government.

    The net result is that central government has cut funding for social care. SCC instead of fighting them on this morally repugnant issue choose the path of least resistance – the taxpayer, the same mugs who continue to pick up the tab for continuing mismanagement of the economy and the actions of the banks.

    What has now been glossed over, is the fact that our council tax has gone up by an inflation busting 4.99% to pay for social care that you’ve already paid for through central taxation.

    This, coupled with increase in the allowances paid to councillors is now a minor detail in this whole façade.

    It is just another masterclass on how duplicitous politicians bury bad news.

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