Surrey County Council abandon 15% council tax rise

Surrey County Council has abandoned plans to raise council tax by 15% proposing to a 4.99% rise instead, leader David Hodge has announced.

The steep increase was proposed to help pay for a shortfall in funding for social care.

The Conservative-run local authority says that Westminster cuts have forced the council to act.

If the rise had been approved, the proposal would have been put to the public in a county-wide referendum.

At just under 5%, the new figure is just below threshold for a public vote set by ministers in Whitehall.

Mr Hodge said at the time "we have a gap we cannot fund, without asking the residents to help us".

The proposed price hike risked becoming an embarrassment to the Tory hierarchy because ministers including Chancellor Philip Hammond and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt have constituencies in the county.

The proposed increase would have added almost £200 to the bills of average Band D taxpayers

When Mr Hodge set out the plans in January he said: "Government has cut our annual grant by £170 million since 2010 leaving a huge gap in our budget.

The council leader said at the time that "demand for adult social care, learning disabilities and children's services is increasing every year".

He added: "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."