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Surrey Liberal Democrats call for Council Tax freeze

January 29, 2013 10:08 AM
Originally published by Surrey County Council Lib Dems

Council Tax BillSurrey Liberal Democrats call for Council Tax freeze

Conservatives hoard £207 million while pleading poverty and putting up Council Tax

Surrey County Council Liberal Democrats are calling for a Council Tax freeze in response to the Conservative administration at County Hall calling for a 1.99% increase in what Surrey's Council Taxpayers are being asked to pay.

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 squirreled 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.

"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, the Conservative Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, 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."