Tory council to hold referendum over proposed 15% council tax hike

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A Tory-controlled local authority is to hold a referendum on raising council tax by 15% in response to funding cuts and the crisis in social care.

Surrey County Council said it had a "huge gap" in its budget as a result of cuts from Westminster.

The council, which includes the constituencies of both Chancellor Philip Hammond and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, will need the approval of local voters to implement the hike.

Surrey County Council leader David Hodge said: "We have to set a budget that will protect vital services for Surrey residents.

"Government has cut our annual grant by £170 million since 2010 - leaving a huge gap in our budget.

"Demand for adult social care, learning disabilities and children's services is increasing every year.

"So I regret, despite us finding £450 million worth of savings from our annual budget, we have no choice but to propose this increase in council tax."

The move will add almost £200 to average B and D council tax bills in the county.

Since the 2012/13 financial year, local authorities have been required to hold a referendum if they want to increase council tax beyond a Whitehall-imposed threshold.

For councils with responsibilities for social care that threshold is set at 5% - far below the increase sought by Surrey.

Surrey's move could be followed by other authorities who face pressures on their budgets.

Claire Kober, chairwoman of the Local Government Association's resources board, said: "After years of striving to keep council tax as low as possible or frozen, many town halls have found themselves having to ask residents to pay more council tax over the next few years, particularly to try and offset some of the spiralling costs of social care.

"Services supporting the elderly and disabled are at breaking point.

"It cannot be left to council taxpayers alone to try and fix them.

"Only genuinely new additional government funding for social care will give councils any chance of protecting the services caring for our elderly and disabled."