OPPOSITION members have called for Surrey leader David Hodge to face a vote of no-confidence in an escalation of February’s “sweetheart” row in the House of Commons that he had struck a secret deal with the Government – prior to reducing a proposed 15 per cent tax hike to 4.99 to avoid a referendum.
Responding to a BBC Freedom of Information request after it obtained a leaked recording last week which appeared to reveal he had struck a deal prior to his budget U-turn, Mr Hodge said: “I’m not responsible for what other people say.
“I’m responsible for fighting for Surrey County Council. I’ve set out all along we were looking for fair funding.
“What matters is the people of Surrey have confidence in me as the leader, but also what really matters is the members of the Conservative group in Surrey have confidence in me as their leader, and on Friday I was overwhelmingly re-elected as the leader for the next four years.”
Mr Hodge faces two motions from opposition members at tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) full council meeting.
Independents leader Eber Kington and Lib Dem leader Hazel Watson have both called for “a new and more open budget-making process” plus an urgent review to ensure information is published unless it is legally confidential.
Haslemere county councillor Nikki Barton (Independent) said: “My key concern is the total lack of openness and transparency in the budget process, contradicting the public commitment to openness and transparency made by the Surrey leader.
“With no notice, or discussion we were asked to vote on effectively an unseen budget requiring significant additional cuts to vital services following the announcement the increase was to be cut from 15 per cent to 4.99 per cent, thereby avoiding a potentially politically damaging referendum.
“The budget is apparently reliant on a back-room deal with central government- the detail of which our leader refuses to share – a situation I consider totally unacceptable.”