Lib Dems on Surrey County Council call on Tory leader to resign over ‘sweetheart deal’

Some of you from outside the area may have missed the story that has been rumbling along about the communications and connections between the Government and Surrey County Council.

Back in January Conservative-led Surrey announced that they were planning a 15% increase on Council tax this year.  They could only implement that by holding a referendum, which they would hold on the same day as the county council elections.

Then in February, David Hodge, the Leader of Surrey County Council, stated, to some bemusement, that they would not be holding the referendum after all. All became clear when Jeremy Corbyn asked the PM whether a special deal had been done for Surrey. She replied that the matter was entirely up to the Council. Corbyn then read out leaked texts from Hodge to a civil servant in the Department of Communities and Local Government.

I am advised that DCLG officials have been working on a solution. You will be contacting me to agree a memorandum of understanding.

Corbyn asked for sight of the memorandum of understanding and whether all councils would be offered the same deal.

Last week a more detailed correspondence was revealed under an FoI request. One of those emails from Jonathan Lord, the Conservative MP for Woking (in Surrey) to David Hodge stated:

Sajid (Javid) led me to understand before Christmas that he would be trying very hard indeed to find £30 or £40m to help Surrey out with the worst of its (government-dictated) financial dilemma.

Hodge also wrote to the Prime Minister asked for more cash. You can read some of the leaked emails here.

Now the Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council have called for David Lodge to resign. They have also tabled a motion of no confidence in him for the next Council meeting on 21st March.

Cllr Hazel Watson (in the photo), who heads the Lib Dem group, said:

I am calling on Cllr David Hodge to resign as Leader of the Council immediately or face a motion of no confidence at the Council meeting of 21stMarch 2017. This is not a decision I take lightly but we cannot go on like this, with a Leader of the Council whose credibility is being undermined every day by new revelations, leaked emails, text messages and secret recordings. This has become a hugely time-consuming distraction for the County Council from what it should be concentrating on, which is to serve the residents of Surrey.

I believe that the Leader of the Council should go now because we need an end to the revelations, speculations and leaks so that the County Council can focus on providing services for residents. This situation has caused embarrassment for the County Council and I am very clear that we cannot go on like this. We need a fresh start with a new Leader of the Council who will approach the running of the council in an open and transparent way, focussing on serving Surrey residents.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Bill le Breton 10th Mar '17 - 5:16pm

    One pities the people of Surrey, especially those in need of better social care and better representation; but does anyone else find this the most hilarious story of trickery, naivety, incompetence and obsequiousness? Very county, very Tory.

  • Richard Underhill 10th Mar '17 - 5:32pm

    In the economic Depression between World War 1 and World War 2 local government finance came under pressure, so central government helped out with a rate support grant derived from income tax. it seems that this central government wants to abolish this central funding, so that local government can become self-financing. Am I being too cynical?

  • “I believe that the Leader of the Council should go now because we need an end to the revelations, speculations and leaks so that the County Council can focus on providing services for residents”

    While the local council may need an end to leaks and to get on with their work I’m not sure this is response that best serves the local community or the country as a whole, nor am I sure that the leader of the council should be taking the majority of the flak. What exactly has HE done wrong? He engaged in conversation with his political party and got a deal which helps his council. It’s that it was done while other communities have been ignored (especially as many other communities are far more in need that Surrey), that it was done in secret and then denied that is the real issue.

  • Bill Le Breton.
    Yes indeed.

  • nigel hunter 12th Mar '17 - 10:31am

    Three of the MP,s in the county are Hammond, Gove and Hunt If a deal had not been made this whole farce would have been a lot of egg on Tory faces, I can quite understand, in their case, why it was kept under wraps. t was done in secret to avoid the flak that would arise.

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