Our Surrey TPA branch met with County Council leaders recently to discuss the budget. Here is a report of the meeting by our organiser Peter Webb:
A Surrey TaxPayers Alliance delegation led by Peter Webb met County Councillors and Officials at County Hall on 28th January, alongside Business and Voluntary group representatives, to review the budget and precept for 2009-10.
Written submissions sent in advance were circulated to all present. These included a call for a freeze in the council tax precept particularly in the changed economic circumstances threatening hard-pressed taxpayers and which demanded belt-tightening all round. Additionally taxpayer representative John Bosten had called for invested cash in the balance sheet approaching £300m to be released to taxpayers to the extent in excess of requirements.
The meeting was presented with a precept increase of 3.95%, around which the budget would be set by the Executive Committee and full Council at meetings in February. Adverse grant settlements beyond 2009-10 were reported and 3% inflation, anticipated cost pressures and efficiency saving assumptions were allowed for.
A national TPA report showed that Surrey County Council people paid over £50,000 had increased in number from 240 to 324 in the year 2007-08 with the associated disclosed cost rising from £16m to £21m. The Council is committed to giving staff a 2.75% increase in the second year of a two-year pay deal agreed with the Unions.
Peter Webb said “there seemed to be no recognition of difficult times ahead for taxpayers, or inflation falling to zero, nor serious attempts to hold back staff numbers and salaries especially those engaged in non-productive activities and behaviour-conditioning procedures.” “To those faced with a near 4% increase in council tax a pay rise combined with a final salary pension scheme seems extraordinarily generous; most people in the private sector would be happy to keep their jobs without any increase in wages.”