MIDDLESBROUGH Mayor Dave Budd has hit out at claims of special treatment for a Tory Council facing a potentially damaging Council Tax hike.
Details emerged this week of an alleged ‘sweetheart deal’ between Surrey County Council and the Government to help the authority avoid a referendum on raising Council Tax in the county.
The County Council was preparing to seek approval to raise Council Tax by a massive 15% to help it meet a severe shortfall in social care funding, but the referendum was scraped and the planned rise reduced to just 4.99% following discussions with the Government.
At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attacked the Government over leaked text messages from the Tory Council Leader to a Government source named ‘Nick’.
And today Mayor Budd joined more than 60 fellow Labour Council leaders in signing a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May demanding answers over the ‘behind closed doors’ deal.
The group also issues a strongly worded challenge over the underfunding of local government and urges action over the projected £2.6 billion shortfall in social care funding by 2020.
The letter states: “We have a crisis in social care, resulting from the Conservative Government’s cuts to local authority funding.
“Secret backroom deals are not the answer.
“We urgently need a proper solution, which means providing councils with the funding they needed to solve this crisis.”
Mayor Budd added: “Yet again, it seems that Tory-run councils in the south get a very different deal to communities like ours here in the North.
“Here in Middlesbrough we have had no choice but to make do with the massively reduced budgets now available to us, but social services in the town will undoubtedly come under ever increasing pressure in large part as a consequence of several years of austerity.
“This social care crisis is a crisis made in Downing Street, and they need to find a solution which sees a properly funded system for all of the country – not just their political allies.”