Liberal Democrats in Surrey today claimed victory as the Conservatives cancelled their planned 15% tax rise in the face of overwhelming opposition from Liberal Democrat councillors and Surrey residents.
However, Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat County Councillors, condemned the Conservative county council's budget as a charade, as the Tory administration pushed through £123 MILLION of unspecified cuts to council services.
The shambolic meeting was adjourned 3 times with little or no explanation, with councillors provided with just a few sheets of A4 paper containing the new council tax arrangements but no detail on any new funding from the government. Councillors were astonished that no new government money was announced by the Leader of the Council in order to plug the gap in the council's finances, which means that the Tory administration will be implementing £123m of unspecified cuts to essential services.
Cllr Hazel Watson said today:"Liberal Democrats and Surrey residents, thousands of whom signed a petition, have forced the Conservatives to back down from their unpopular and unaffordable 15% council tax hike. But there is no certainty over where the money will come from to avoid drastic cuts to essential services in the next financial year. Not only does the county council aim to make £93m of unspecified cuts next year, they will now have to find an extra £30m on top of that - meaning that £123m of cuts are on their way.
"This budget is a sign of panic and has been solely designed to save Tory seats in the Surrey County Council elections in May, rather than sorting out the financial mess that they have created. They are gambling with the county's finances as they have failed to provide any details of how the council's budget is sustainable next year let alone in the next few years. The Leader of the Council has presented us with no figures, no plan, and no idea of where the money will come from via central government to protect council services in Surrey. The county council meeting today with 3 adjournments was a shambolic charade - residents deserve much better and can send the administration a strong message on May 4th.
"The reality is that the county council's finances will remain in a poor condition until a fairer funding arrangement for vital adult social care services is agreed with central government. That is what Liberal Democrats are calling for today and that is what was wholly missing from today's Conservative budget. They are asking residents to take a leap into the dark which is no way to conduct a budget or manage the county council's finances".