Surrey

Surrey council 'sweetheart deal': Leader David Hodge 'to stay'

David Hodge Image copyright Surrey County Council
Image caption David Hodge said he had the confidence of Surrey residents and the Conservative group on the council

A council leader at the centre of an alleged "sweetheart deal" with government has said he will not step down amid calls for him to resign.

Opposition members have called for Surrey County Council leader David Hodge to face a no confidence motion.

But Mr Hodge, who was re-elected as Conservative group leader on Friday, said he had the confidence of residents.

The government denied claims Surrey was offered a special deal.

The authority had planned a 15% council tax hike - which would have sparked a referendum in the county - which was then dropped in favour of a 4.99% increase.

Documents released by both the government and the council, and a leaked recording obtained by the BBC, detailed behind-the-scenes discussions which indicated ministers were offering "some extra funding" shortly before the council abandoned the proposed 15% rise.

Councillor Hazel Watson, Liberal Democrat leader, said she had submitted a motion of no confidence for the full council meeting on 21 March, but the deadline had passed and it remained to be seen whether it would be debated.

She has also submitted a second motion opposing "a culture of excessive secrecy" at the council and calling for a review to ensure it operates in "a more open and transparent way".

Image copyright Google
Image caption A government spokesman has denied there was any "special deal" for Surrey County Council

Mr Hodge said: "Surrey has never actually tried to get a special deal. What Surrey was after was getting a fair deal."

He said out of £2bn allocated nationally to social care in the budget, £21m would go to Surrey over three years.

When asked about the leaked recording, and documents released under freedom of information, he 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."

He added: "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."

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