The leader of Surrey County Council has confirmed rumoured plans to hike council tax up by 15 per cent, the largest increase in the country and nine times the rate of inflation.

Councillor David Hodge, leader of the Conservative administration, which has a majority of around two-thirds in the council, confirmed the plans following a party meeting last night.

In a statement sent out this morning, Cllr Hodge said: “We have to set a budget that will protect vital services for Surrey residents.

“Government has cut our annual grant by £170m since 2010 - leaving a huge gap in our budget.

“Demand for adults social care, learning disabilities and children's services is increasing every year. 

“So I regret, despite us finding £450m worth of savings from our annual budget, we have no choice but to propose this increase in council tax.”

The average Surrey resident according to house value – those living in Band D properties – paid £1,268.28 in 2016/17. A 15 per cent increase would see these residents paying an additional £190.24.

Under current rules, the county council can only raise its share of the tax by an additional 4.99 per cent each year – 3 per cent of which is ring-fenced for adult social care – and must hold a county-wide referendum if it wishes to raise a larger amount.

A county council spokesman could not confirm speculation a referendum would cost Surrey residents £350,000.

The council was last month forced to use £24.8 million of reserves – its largest ever use of reserves – after blowing its budget by £15 million this year.

Surrey Comet:

But leader of the Surrey Labour party at the council, councillor Robert Evans, branded the Conservatives a “disgrace”.

He said: “I’m afraid this just shows how badly Surrey Conservatives have mismanaged the county’s financial affairs.

“Council tax is an unfair and unbalanced tax, which hits the poorest hardest.

“But the real issue is the complacency and incompetence in the way they have run the council. Presumably, they even think Surrey people will back them in a referendum. I think not.

“We have a Conservative government and a Conservative county council.

“Surrey has eleven Tory MPs one of whom is Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and yet they still can’t balance the books. It’s a disgrace.

“This top heavy administration has spent money on huge allowances for themselves, and got their priorities all wrong.

“They found £1.5 million pounds last year on a huge Magna Carta day and now they want to close fire-stations. It’s just not right.”

Despite the Conservative proposal, party opinion has been split on the matter, with Epsom borough councillor Jane Race tweeting that the hike would be a “huge blow for cash strapped, hard working people and families”.

Surrey Comet:

Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition, councillor Hazel Watson, said it would be “astonishing” for the Conservatives to “carry the can for their own financial failings and the government's failure to properly fund services”.

She said: “Liberal Democrat councillors on Surrey County Council oppose this huge increase in council tax which would be the largest increase in the country and is 9 times the rate of inflation.

“A 15 per cent increase would be unaffordable for many Surrey residents and would hit the elderly and those on fixed-incomes hardest.

“It would be quite wrong for the Tories to try and shift this funding problem onto Surrey residents.

“It is astonishing that the Conservative-administration think Surrey residents should carry the can for their own financial failings and the government's failure to properly fund services.

“The crisis in the funding of adult social care needs a long-term solution from national government not a temporary sticking plaster, which is what a large council tax rise would offer.”

The proposals will be decided by at the next full council meeting on February 7.