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About Turn on Council Tax Referendum – Guildford County Councillors React

Published on: 7 Feb, 2017
Updated on: 9 Feb, 2017

Two Guildford county councillors have reacted this evening (February 7) to the news that Surrey County Council (SCC) has decided not to hold a referendum for a 15% council tax rise.

There is speculation that the council’s own research had shown the referendum would have been lost and it might have been concerned that public ire on the issue, expressed in many quarters, might have diminished support for Conservative candidates at the county council elections, due to be held on the same day, May 4.

Cllr Keith Witham.

Cllr Keith Witham (Con, Worplesdon) said: “Many councillors, of all parties, were very concerned about such a large increase in council tax and therefore rejected the 15% proposal and with it the need for a referendum costing £1 million.

“The reason, the increasing costs of adult social care, including looking after elderly people, the disabled and people with learning disabilities, is a national government responsibility that should be funded from national taxation, not through the local council tax. The government are now listening to these concerns, which have had national publicity, thanks to Surrey County Council.

“I have proposed that the government’s foreign aid be halved from £12 billion a year, and the £6 billion saved be reallocated half to the NHS and half to councils for adult social care. It is wrong that our taxes are being used to help elderly people in China, while our elderly are waiting. Charity should begin at home.”

Cllr Fiona White.

Fiona White (Lib Dem, Guildford West) said: “It was clear from my conversations with people on doorsteps that the idea of increasing council tax by 15% was deeply unpopular and was doomed to failure at the referendum.

“The backdown by Surrey Conservatives looks like good news and it takes away the worry of an unaffordable increase for a lot of people but it was clear from the council meeting that this is a very risky budget. Even with a 15% tax increase, the council would have had to make cuts of £93 million, which had been identified by service but not in detail.
“Now they have to cut a further £30 million without knowing where from. That makes a total of £123 million. The cuts can’t come from services protected by law so have to hit such things as libraries, grants to charities and voluntary organisations, passenger transport subsidies, highways services and special education needs which are not statutory.
“Social care is a national issue and needs a national solution. The council leader said the government is listening but listening is not enough. They need to take action.
“My major worry is about what will happen next year when there are no council elections? If they are still running the council, will Surrey Conservatives try the same thing again? Will they force through an unaffordable increase?”

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Responses to About Turn on Council Tax Referendum – Guildford County Councillors React

  1. Martin Elliott Reply

    February 7, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    I was under the impression the cabinet approved a ‘back-up’ 2%+2.99% budget.

    Why then does Cllr Fiona White say “Now they have to cut a further £30m without knowing where from…..” Is she saying the council have yet again approved a ‘vapour’ budget. Why was that not pointed out at the cabinet meeting?

    I’m afraid both sides of the chamber are playing the politics game at the expense of the residents.

    Still no mention of why Surrey decided to play this pathetic game with central government? What has been the role of Local Government Association (LGA) who were the ones that stated two-thirds of councils had the same grant/budget issues? Or the role of our MPs, two of whom said the problems of the grant calculations was an issue from Labour Government of SEVEN years ago?

    Now of course, in future years, their solution comes along. The retention of business rates will replace the grant. Who’s done the sums for this, and not just in Surrey, but in counties with low numbers of business?

  2. Wayne Smith Reply

    February 7, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    Common sense prevails, for now! How Cllr. Hodge ever thought Surrey County Council would get a “Yes” vote in a referendum for a 15% increase in Council Tax is quite beyond me.

    Two Guildford councillors now seem to acknowledge that social care should be funded by central government and that’s something that needs to be pursued vigorously by our MP Anne Milton. She would do well to champion the suggestions from Cllr. Witham to cut the foreign aid budget and divert the money to the NHS and Social Care. Charity begins at home.

    This should have been a big wake-up call for the Conservatives at Surrey County Council and I don’t think they should rest easy on polling day.

  3. Jim Allen Reply

    February 7, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    Common sense after the fact?

  4. Alan Cooper Reply

    February 8, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Cllr Keith Withal is absolutely correct to try and get foreign aid reduced for the benefit of NHS. It’s ludicrous that we are giving India nearly £300m per annum when they have their own space programme and many more billionaires that we have in UK.

    Foreign aid really does need examining and justifying! It really is time the government woke up to this extravagance that we can ill afford.

  5. Fiona White Reply

    February 9, 2017 at 10:46 am

    In answer to Martin Elliott’s question about the £30m, the council leader announced he was setting up a three-person panel to go find the additional savings and report back in March. Hence my comment that we don’t know where those savings will come from.

    There is a danger that we may not achieve the targets from the cuts which would mean calling on reserves. The council’s senior finance officer said that would put the reserves below a safe level.

    Fiona White is the Lib Dem county councillor for Guildford West.

  6. John Robson Reply

    February 11, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    Council Tax would never have been raised by 15% and there would never have been a referendum to determine this. This was a monumental charade by the Conservative group at County Hall.

    The fact that the leader of SCC mistakenly sent text messages to a member of the Labour party not once, but twice is laughable, this was all part of the plan.

    The net effect is that council tax payers within Surrey have now been blindsided by this whole sham and will now be “relieved” that they will only be subjected to an increase of 4.99%. Yippee, we got away with it.

    To further compound this issue, the Conservatives have now found another cash cow in which to abdicate their responsibilities for providing social care through central taxation. It’s yet another double whammy, we’re paying twice for the same thing.

    Notwithstanding the fact that the Conservatives constantly claim to be the party of fiscal prudence it appears to me that they are incapable of managing the UK economy and the more importantly the NHS.

    The people who have paid into the system for all of their working lives are entitled to receive a higher and more dignified level of care than they currently enjoy It is reprehensible how the people least able to defend themselves are treated by this government.

    Finally, if as a consequence of the exponential growth in population the UK cannot provide an adequate level of social care for its inhabitants, then tax the people who are responsible for the never ending policy of austerity… the banks.

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