Surrey

Surrey County Council sends 'extra funding' text before budget meeting

County Hall Image copyright Google
Image caption A series of documents has been released by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid's department

The contact between Surrey County Council, Tory MPs and the government over its plans for a 15% tax hike has been laid bare.

Documents released by the government under Freedom of Information show the debate continued until the last minute.

On 7 February, an official sent a text, saying the council believed the government would give the authority "extra funding".

The government has denied Labour claims Surrey was offered a "sweetheart deal".

During a full council meeting later that day to discuss the proposed 15% council tax rise, which would have sparked a referendum, the increase was suddenly dropped,

An alternative budget was approved with a council tax rise of 4.99% - below the level requiring a public vote.

'Call the ref off?'

In the text, Sheila Little, the Surrey County Council director of finance, told the Department of Communities and Local Government's director of finance, Matthew Style, about a note from a Surrey MP.

She said council leader David Hodge had shown her a "note from a Surrey MP about a conversation late last night {with] SJ" - apparently a reference to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid - which "seems to indicate government are willing to get us some extra funding from 2018".

The text continued: "V interested in whether this is sincere. As it stands isn't enough to call the ref off? But could it be?

"Grateful if we can have an officer chat, although I've told the leader he would need to speak to SJ."

Image copyright Department for Communities and Local Government
Image caption Text messages between Sheila Little and Matthew Style on 6 and 7 February

In earlier messages sent on 3 February, Ms Little said she needed clear figures to present to Mr Hodge about any deal on offer.

In a text message that day, she wrote: "It would be hugely helpful if a number can be quoted to David - he won't understand the %'s!."

Papers released by the council, include a letter from Woking MP Jonathan Lord to David Hodge that Mr Javid could cut funding for other councils to give Surrey £31m.

Opposition councillors in Surrey have called on Mr Hodge to resign as council leader or face a motion of no confidence.

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