@SurreyCouncil branded “democracy dodgers”

This FT article, reports that Grant Shapps, Minister of State for Housing and Local Government, has criticised councils including Surrey County Council for increasing council taxes. Grant Shapps has branded these councils “democracy dodgers” for increasing taxes but keeping the increases below the the 3.5% level that could force a local referendum under the Localism Act. David Hodge tells the FT that Surrey County Council was already very efficient. (In this blog, we’ve already written about some of Surrey County Council’s inefficiencies here and here.)
From the conservativehome blog today, you’ll read: Shapps warns councils “may well not be rewarded” for Council Tax rise:

A warning from Housing Minister Grant Shapps on the Radio 4 Today programme to councils turning down the offer of funding for a Council Tax freeze this year because they thought it would make it easier for them to dodge a referendum next year.

Of future grant levels he said: When we transient to the new system we will have to decide which base level to use. We are not impressed with areas that have deliberately rejected money to freeze Council Tax and they may well not be rewarded for having done so.

On the same “package” was the Conservative leader of Surrey County Council Cllr David Hodge who tried to justify a Council tax increase saying: We have got a 25% increase in the birth rate over the last eight or nine years so we are having to spend an extra quarter of a billion on extra school places.

But, as the conservativehome blog points out, this comes from the Dedicated Schools Grant and capital funding from the Department of Education. This has nothing to do with the Council Tax which goes into the General Fund and doesn’t cover the cost of school places. (Editor’s note: plus many Surrey Schools are now independent of local authorities as academies).