After Peterborough there is disappointing news of two more Conservative councils planning to increase the Council tax and spurn the Government's offer of funding a freeze.
Surrey County Council is proposing a Council Tax rise of 2.99%. Its leader Cllr David Hodge claims the need for extra primary school places is a justification. But this is not funded out of the Council Tax. The truth is that Surrey is an inefficient, spendthrift, heavily bureaucratic council – as has been chronicled on this site before.
I even asked if Surrey had a socialist council. The point was not that the Tory councillors were left wing infiltrators. It was that they weren't running the show. It was run by bureaucrats for bureaucrats – so all the meddling, waste and political correctness followed from that. There have also been some good initiatives but this proposed Council Tax rise is a very negative signal. I expect that a large majority of even Labour councils will freeze the Council Tax this year – so what are Surrey doing put it up?
Cllr Hodge emails to say:
Please note that the Surrey County Council Conservative Group discussed this important issue at our away day last Friday. After a full presentation of the facts, and recognising the medium to long term effects, we agreed not to accept the one-off council tax freeze as this would create a £70m blackhole. All councillors will understand the issues which impact on their Local Authority, and they are best placed to make an informed decision.
I emailed back:
I think the blackhole calculation is by multiplying over five years. I suppose you could make it £140 million by multiplying over ten years.
But why not accept the Govt grant for 2012/13 and then put up the Council Tax more in 2013/14? Is the problem that you don't think you could get it through Council Tax referendum as Surrey residents would prefer spending cuts to deal with the blackhole, rather than a sharp Council tax rise?
He then emailed me again:
Thank you for your comments. As you no doubt appreciate, these are exceptionally difficult decisions, but only members of Surrey County Council know the full facts, just as you are best informed on your council's predicament too.