Surrey council tax rise would raise £90m but the council has £136m invested outside the county
A B&Q in Macclesfield, a Travelodge in Stratford upon Avon d a distribution centre in Bristol are among £136 million worth of investments Surrey County Council has made outside of the county, which opposition councillors say could be withdrawn instead of raising council tax.
The council recently announced plans to raise its share of council tax by 15 per cent to raise about £90 million to secure services including adult social care for the next three years.
But Hazel Watson, leader of the Surrey Liberal Democrats and county councillor for Dorking Hills, has called for the council to reorganise its out-of-county property investments, which currently stand at £136.1 million across 10 schemes.
These include a share in a Vue cinema and retail units in Worcester, and a distribution warehouse in Salford, Greater Manchester.
Ms Watson has also said that there are lots of other ways the council could save money and argues that these options should be pursued before Surrey residents are asked to foot the bill.
She said: "Surrey County Council could save money in a variety of ways such as scrapping the Surrey Matters magazine (which has cost more than £1 million to produce since 2011), abolishing the unnecessary associate cabinet member positions or changing its investment strategy to reduce the amount spent on commercial property outside the county.
"The most important thing is that the council lobbies central government for more funding in order to avoid this substantial council tax rise and protect essential services for Surrey residents."
Eight of the out-of-county investments were revealed in audit and governance papers released in December while a further two – £28.2 million in a Milton Keynes retail scheme and £7.3 million in a Macclesfield B&Q – were confirmed to the Surrey Opposition Forum by the SCC's finance department.
David Hodge, the leader of Surrey County Council announced plans on Thursday, January 19 to hold a public referendum in May on the proposed council tax hike, because the Government only allows councils to raise their share by 4.99 per cent without the need to ask the public's permission.
If approved, the portion of council tax that pays for services provided by Surrey County Council would increase by at least £190 for occupants of Band D homes, based on the overall council tax amount paid by residents to the authority last year.
Surrey County Council's out-of-county investments
Bristol Distribution park £11.9m
Worksop Business park £9m
Redditch, Worcs Retail (out of town) £7.9m
Aztec West, Bristol Office £21.1m
Salford Distribution warehouse £8.2m
Stratford on Avon Travelodge hotel £9.8m
Loughborough Retail park £20.1m
Worcester Vue cinema and retail units £12.6m
Macclesfield B&Q £7.3m
Milton Keynes Retail scheme £28.2m