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'Sweetheart deal' tax hike leader faces no confidence vote

Calls for a Tory county council leader to resign over an alleged “sweetheart” funding deal with the government is to be debated, it has been confirmed.

A motion of no confidence in Surrey council leader David Hodge was tabled by the Lib-Dems after a row over the alleged council tax funding deal.

The council confirmed a debate will be held after claims the row had undermined the leader’s credibility.

The government has denied Labour claims Surrey was offered a “sweetheart deal“.

A proposal for a 15% council tax hike – which would have sparked a referendum in the county – was later dropped in favour of a 4.99% increase.

The debate will take place at the first full council meeting since the rise was scrapped.

After the row over the alleged deal erupted, documents were released by both the government and the council, and a leaked recording was obtained by the BBC.

They detailed behind-the-scenes discussions that indicated ministers were offering “some extra funding”, shortly before the council abandoned the proposed 15% rise.

Councillor Hazel Watson, Liberal Democrat leader, said Mr Hodge’s credibility was being undermined by the revelations, including “leaked emails, text messages and secret recordings”.

‘Make no apology’

But Mr Hodge has vowed to stay and insisted he has the support of residents and members of the Conservative group.

When asked about the recording and released documents, Mr Hodge 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.”

Mr Hodge, who was this month re-elected as the Conservative group leader for the next four years, said: “I make no apology for standing up for the people of Surrey.

“In fact the people of Surrey have said to me please continue to stand up for us. I will never ever stop standing up for the people of Surrey.”

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