Surrey

Surrey County Council secures £24m as 3.9% tax rise agreed

Council leader David Hodge Image copyright Surrey County Council
Image caption Council leader David Hodge said tough choices would still have to be made

A Conservative council that made an "urgent" plea for an extra £20m as it set its next budget has secured more than £24m from government.

Surrey County Council, which approved a 3.9% council tax rise, had said it could not set a sustainable budget.

It has now been given an extra £11.9m for 2016-17 and £12.2m for 2017-18.

Council leader David Hodge said tough choices would still have to be made. Opposition councillor, Eber Kington, said it was a "Conservative shambles".

Mr Kington, from the Residents' Association and Independent group, said: "Over the past few weeks, we've heard a lot about shock.

'Ministerial whim'

"Well I can think of another word beginning with 'sh' to describe the budgeting process we're going through - shambles. In fact, a Conservative shambles from the Conservative government down to Surrey's Conservative leadership."

Announcing the additional government cash at Tuesday's budget meeting, Mr Hodge revealed he had received confirmation from the Secretary of State the previous night.

Mr Kington asked: "Does anybody in this chamber actually believe that the funding of key public bodies responsible for billions of pounds of public money and the provision of key services to every single resident in the country should be at the whim of a provisional ministerial decision just before Christmas, which is finally confirmed in the week of - or in Surrey's case - on the evening before the budget-setting meeting?"

He said the government grant process made a mockery of financial planning and was a "procedural shambles".

Services 'still strained'

After Tuesday's meeting, Liberal Democrat group leader Hazel Watson said cuts had already damaged services including the youth service, bus services, recycling, road safety and drainage.

She said: "Certain services are being underfunded and that has got to be changed."

Councillor Nick Harrison, Residents' Association and Independent group leader, said extra government funding would help but there may still be cuts.

He said: "We're running faster and faster to try and stay in the same place."

Mr Hodge said the extra money was allocated as part of a £300m government fund being given to councils over two years.

He said: "The good news is that the offer to local government as a whole and Surrey specifically has improved."

But he added: "While the transition grant for Surrey is welcome it is not as much as we had hoped for and will still place a strain on services."

The cabinet is due to agree detailed spending plans by the end of March.

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