The opposition has called for the leader of Surrey County Council to quit after telling other Conservatives he had secured a gentleman’s agreement with the government to avoid an embarrassing 15 per cent tax hike.
Surrey’s Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Hazel Watson urged David Hodge to resign or face a motion of no confidence at a council meeting on March 21.
Councillor Hodge's Conservative group said he would not stand down, dismissed the motion as "fatuous", and re-elected him as leader as its annual general meeting on Friday (March 10).
Councillor Hodge insists a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ was struck with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), while the government reaffirmed that no such ‘sweetheart deal’ was made.
Cllr Watson (pictured above) has questioned the leader’s judgement after he and his Cabinet unanimously voted for a 15 per cent council tax rise to plug a £31 million gap in social care funding, before scrapping plans for the referendum required to push through the increase.
She added: “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."
The county council's Conservative Group stated:
"SCC’s Conservative Group has total confidence in Leader David Hodge and therefore this motion will be soundly defeated at Full council.
"At our Group AGM taking place tomorrow, David will yet again stand unopposed for the position of Leader. Such full support reflects his continual efforts to fight for the best interests of Surrey residents and doing all he can to safeguard the vital services our residents rely on.
"It is worth noting that the Lib Dems voted against the budget agreed at the last Full Council despite having failed to ever table an alternative budget. We cannot comprehend how the leader standing up for Surrey would warrant his resignation."
More to follow.