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Lib Dems call for Council Tax rise restraint

January 31, 2012 9:48 AM
Originally published by Surrey County Council Lib Dems

Council Tax BillLiberal Democrats on Surrey County Council are calling for the Conservative administration to show restraint in increasing Council Tax in the 2012/13 Budget.

Cllr Hazel Watson, the Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition on Surrey County Council, says:

"The legacy of years of the Conservative administration at Surrey County Council, by their own admission, failing Surrey's residents means that they now have almost no choice but to increase Council Tax.

"The Conservative-run Cabinet states in its own Corporate Strategy being discussed today that they failed Surrey residents for years. Surrey Council Taxpayers are still paying for that failure."

The Corporate Strategy states: 'In 2008 Surrey County Council was failing Surrey residents. Key essential services were not being delivered effectively: some were close to failure. Our costs were spiralling out of control: our projected spending over the years 2009 to 2013 was over £200 million more than the income we would have. We had little credibility with key partners. We had not invested as well as we should have in the skills and training of staff and the equipment they had to work with.'

Cllr Watson continued: "Council finance officers have been clear that the Council Tax increase that is needed to stick to the Council's five year financial plan, and not have unacceptable further cuts than those already planned, is 2.5%. In the present financial climate, with many Surrey residents struggling to make ends meet, it is irresponsible for the Conservative administration to want to put up Council Tax by more than 2.5%.

"We support the additional money for Surrey's highway maintenance and Youth Projects that are in the Budget. In addition we would end the unpopular and ill-conceived proposals for libraries to be run by volunteers, reverse the penny pinching Conservative change of bus passes back to start at 9am from 9.30am and increase funding for road resurfacing.

"We would increase funding to voluntary organisations that provide vital services to Surrey residents.

"Our proposals can be achieved by halving the excessive £2 million communications budget spent on PR spin and glossy magazines, bringing forward from 2016/17 the reorganisation of the Chief Executive's Department and cutting the millions spent on consultants and agency staff. We would use a small proportion of the County's £112 million of reserves and available balances to fund road resurfacing and important capital projects. This can be done without increasing Council Tax by the excessive amount proposed by the Conservatives."