Union congratulates Surrey County Council on plan to raise Council Tax (From Redhill And Reigate Life)
Got a story? Call 01273 544544 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Union congratulates Surrey County Council on plan to raise Council Tax
8:19pm Monday 4th March 2013 in News
Key general trade union the GMB has congratulated Surrey County Council on its plan to raise council tax.
The GMB, the general union for public services, which has more than 600,000 members, has backed the county council, along with 85 other local authorities, who it says plan to “defy the Government council tax freeze” in order to protect front-line services.
The union also highlighted and backed the plans to raise council tax of other Surrey councils, including Reigate and Banstead Borough Council.
Brian Strutton, GMB national secretary for public services, said: "The UK Government has slashed council budgets and services and jobs, and it's high time councils said 'enough is enough.'” In a statement last week, the union said: “Front-line council services have been pared to the bone and can't be cut any more. “It will be totally disingenuous if government ministers criticise councils who are trying to protect their local communities.”
The union stated that councils also “need to do the right thing by their staff after a three-year pay freeze,” adding it hoped to see an offer to begin rebuilding local authority pay at a national negotiating meeting due to be held last Thursday (February 21).
The GMB was commenting on a report in Local Government Chronicle that 86 councils plan to defy the government council tax freeze. Surrey County Council controversially decided to reject the Government's offer of a one-off grant to freeze council tax, earlier this month.
Instead, county councillors backed raising council tax for next year by 1.99%.
Braving heavy criticism from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, and just ducking the 2% increase threshold for a referendum to be held, the council said accepting the tax freeze option from the Government would have saddled it with a “£50 million black hole” in its budget in five years.
Surrey County Council's leader David Hodge, said: “Although this is a difficult decision in the current economic climate, people have consistently told us that roads, schools and care for the vulnerable are what matter to them most. “That’s why we want to invest in them now.”
Coun Hodge said: “The Government has offered us a one-off grant if we freeze council tax. “Accepting it would be the wrong decision for Surrey as it would cripple our finances for the future.”
He continued: “It would saddle us with a £50 million black hole in our budget in just five years, and prevent us from investing in services when people need them most.
“The easy option as a politician would be to park the problem until after the election, but it would saddle Surrey with a financial time bomb that would go off in five years time - and that would be an irresponsible decision for us to recommend.”
John Furey, Surrey County Council’s cabinet member for transport and environment, said: “The recent council tax decision was a pivotal moment for Surrey’s roads because it now means we have the money available to take huge strides in improving them.”
Coun Furey said: “Over the next five years we’ll completely overhaul many of the worst roads in a bid to tackle the root cause of potholes.”
The county council has also pledged the rise in council tax will pay for investment in schools and care for the vulnerable.