COUNCIL tax in Surrey looks set to rise by almost 3% as the county council unveils plans to reject the Government’s price freeze.
The councilâ€™s cabinet will discuss ignoring an offer available to all councils to have a one-off grant of 2.5% of their 2012/13 budget in return for retaining the existing council tax.
Members claim accepting the grant would lead to a Â£70 million financial black hole over the next five years – equivalent to wiping out Surreyâ€™s road maintenance budget for more than two years – and would leave the county Â£14 million worse off in subsequent years.
Council leader David Hodge said: â€œFor some councils, it is a good offer but itâ€™s not right for Surrey. The freeze would be a short-term gain for long-term pain.”
He said the authority had already made huge savings from its budget, adding: “Our plans mean that even in 2017, we wonâ€™t be spending any more than we did in 2010. The truth is that we have to increase council tax every year just to stand still, because our Whitehall grant is reducing every year.”
He said more money would be spent on road maintenance schemes if the grant was turned down.
â€œWith the number of people aged over 85 doubling in the next 20 years, some of the most heavily used roads in the UK and almost a 20 per cent increase in the countyâ€™s birth rate over the past decade, Surrey faces enormous pressure on its budgets for elderly care, roads maintenance and school places,” he said.
â€œWith these kinds of challenges, itâ€™s vital we make decisions in the long term interest of Surrey and we therefore have no choice but to recommend the council decline the Governmentâ€™s offer.â€
The cabinet will consider increasing council tax by 2.99% at a meeting on Tuesday January 31.
The cabinetâ€™s recommendation will go forward to a meeting of the full council on February 7, where a final decision will be made.