POLITICS

'Sweetheart Deal' Councillor Quits Key Tory Position After Social Care Row

David Hodge was under pressure from Tory colleagues

22/03/2017 18:08 GMT
PA

The council leader accused of striking a “sweetheart deal” with the Government over social care funding has today quit a key Tory role on an influential national body.

Surrey County Council’s David Hodge today announced he was stepping down as Conservative Group Leader on the Local Government Association (LGA), just hours after surviving a vote of no confidence at his own authority.

The Huff Post UK has learned Hodge was under increasing pressure by fellow Tory councillors to quit his LGA role after recordings emerged of him claiming he had reached a “gentleman’s agreement” for extra cash with Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid.

The “agreement” saw Hodge scrap a planned council tax hike of 15 per cent – which would have triggered a local referendum - in favour of 4.99 per cent rise.

The council was later invited to take part in a trial allowing it to keep local business rates in order to fund social care from 2018.

Last month, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the Government of offering Surrey Council a “sweetheart deal”, but Theresa May repeatedly claimed any authority could have applied to take part in the scheme.

In a statement today, Hodge says he is standing down as Tory leader on the LGA as his fellow Conservatives want someone with “a different approach”.

He said: “They may want someone who will ruffle fewer feathers and so I have decided to resign from my position at the LGA.”

Speaking to Huff Post UK, Leicestershire County Council leader Nicolas Rushton praised Hodge for his work in the past two years, but admitted recent events had caused a distraction.

He said: “He got confused in his role as leader of Surrey and his role on the LGA.

“I want to praise him for all he’s done, but it was all too much with questions in the Commons and the Lords and leaked messages and FOI requests.”

When asked if pressure was placed on Hodge to quit, Rushton said: “There was discontent.”

Labour’s Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary Teresa Pearce described the resignation as “unsurprising” and said: “This doesn’t put the matter to bed however.

“Theresa May has failed to come clean about the terms of the deal offered to Surrey, failed to apologise for her Government’s misleading suggestion that there had been no such deal and would not give the assurance that other local councils will get the same treatment.

“David Hodge’s resignation makes the need for full disclosure from the Government more pressing.  

“What we need from the Tories is a long term sustainable plan for funding social care, rather than cosy deals for Tories councils.”