Surrey County Council announces referendum on 15% tax hike to fund social care

Several cabinet ministers would see their own bills rise, including Chancellor Philip Hammond

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The Independent Online

Surrey County Council has announced it will hold a referendum on whether it should increase council tax by 15 per cent to fund social care.

Councils have already raised taxes in recent years to fund social care, using a 2 per cent precept on top of the main charge. Surrey's Conservative leader David Hodge blamed Government cuts and said he had been forced into the decision.

It is understood that Mr Hodge is meeting officials in the Department for Communities and Local Government today to discuss his decision.

Last November the Government was warned of a "social care crisis" after it was revealed more than half of local authorities with responsibility for elderly care—77 out of 152—had seen a least one residential and nursing care provider close in the preceding six months.

Surrey is home to several Cabinet members including Chancellor Philip Hammond, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Hodge said: "Government has cut our annual grant by £170m since 2010—leaving a huge gap in our budget.

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

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

The hike is designed to "protect vital services," he said.

Council tax for a Band D property in Mr Hammond's Runnymede and Weybridge constituency is £1,638.06. That will go up by £245 if the plans go ahead.

James Taylor, head of policy and public affairs at the disability charity Scope, said: "This is further evidence that councils are at breaking point and social care is on its knees.

"Councils don’t have the funds to provide the care and support disabled people desperately need.

"The recent precept rise in council tax won’t go far enough and the referendum in Surrey is another example that it isn’t the long-term solution needed to meet rising demand and costs.

"Disabled people have told us that they have resorted to sleeping in their wheelchairs, been unable to go to the toilet and have been forced to survive on one hot meal a day.  

"We are calling on the Government to urgently address the funding crisis in social care. Disabled people's lives depend on it."