A 15% increase in council tax has been approved in Surrey – before a referendum on the issue has been held. The council’s cabinet has approved the rates hike, which is due come into effect in April – a month before a legally-required vote. A referendum would cost up to £300,000, plus a further £630,000 to send out new bills if the rise was rejected. The Conservative-led council is expected to approve the measure at a meeting next week. If the budget is approved by the full council, as is expected, the referendum would take place on 4 May, alongside local elections. Any authority wanting to increase council tax by more than 2% must put the plan to a vote.  The proposed increase in Surrey would add nearly £200 to a Band D bill, bringing it to about £1,500 per year. It has blamed government spending cuts and an increased demand for social care for the rise. A substitute budget would take effect if the council lost the referendum.  Councillor Hazel Watson, leader of the Lib-Dem opposition on the council said: “The Conservative administration at County Hall is asking Surrey residents to pay more for less – an unreasonable and unaffordable 15% council tax increase and £93 million of unspecified cuts in council services. “It is time for the Tories at County Hall to end their secrecy and to spill the beans about the £93 million of cuts which are coming down the pipeline.” The council said the alternative budget would lead to cuts of £30m in 2017-18, rising to £73m in 2019-20.

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