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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 January 2017

Reject Surrey's 15% council tax increase

Council workers lobbying councillors to vote against Tory cuts, photo Scott Jones

Council workers lobbying councillors to vote against Tory cuts, photo Scott Jones   (Click to enlarge)

Paul Couchman, Staines Socialist Party

Surrey's Tory council wants residents to fork out a whopping 15% council tax rise to pay for the crisis in social care. Because the proposed hike breaches government limits, it can only pass if residents back it in a local referendum.

Council tax is a regressive tax which hits the poorest hardest. The average annual bill in Surrey will, if this goes through, rise by around 230.

It is wrong to pass the buck onto working class people through a system which allows millionaires in mansions to get away with paying very little.

Yes - adult social care is in crisis nationally. Cuts and privatisation have driven this, alongside the Tory government robbing local authorities year on year. In Surrey, the annual grant has been cut by 170 million since 2010.

One Surrey Tory MP told Sky News that the county's MPs had been trying to broker a deal with the government, but talks had failed. The MP said: "They'll hold a referendum, lose, and then use it as a cover to cut services."

The fact that a Tory council in the flagship county of Surrey is finding it impossible to balance the books is yet another example of the splits and disarray within the Tory party.

It is particularly embarrassing for the government because Surrey includes the constituencies of Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor Philip Hammond and other leading Tory MPs.

If Corbyn's Labour and the unions called for no-cuts budgets and the reversal of all cuts and sell-offs, they could drive a wedge into the Tory party's cracks. They would get a ready echo from working class people living and working in the shires.

There may be some who will say we have to support this to protect the services we rely on. But this would be a mistake. Even if the referendum returns a 'yes' vote, which is extremely unlikely, a 15% hike would still just be a sticking plaster over a gaping wound.

The local Socialist Party says to the Surrey Tories: you have come to the end of the road. We call on anti-austerity campaigners and trade unionists to consider standing candidates in the county council elections in May, against cuts and regressive tax hikes.

The election charter of Save Our Services in Surrey would be a good starting point.

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In The Socialist 25 January 2017:


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