CALLS TO GO: Surrey County Council leader David Hodge could be forced to hear a petition calling for him to resign

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Posted: October 05, 2014

By Michael Davies

CALLS TO GO:  Surrey County Council leader David Hodge could be forced to hear a petition calling for him to resign online  Photo by Grant Melton

 online Photo by Grant Melton

DAVID HODGE could be forced to hear a petition calling for him to resign or be removed as leader of Surrey County Council after it gained enough signatures to go before the cabinet.

The e-petition, which was started by Leatherhead resident Gerald Harvard on the council’s own website, calls for Mr Hodge – the Conservative councillor for Warlingham – to stand down or be removed from his role as leader.

It has so far gained 102 signatures in just over a month, meaning Mr Harvard now has the right to present his petition to the council’s cabinet, which is chaired by Mr Hodge, as it has met the council’s requirement for a minimum 100 signatories.

As well as calling for the council leader to resign, the petition accuses Mr Hodge of approving allowances above those recommended by an independent panel, making decisions undemocratically and endorsing the use of private venues, funded by the taxpayer, for staff away days.

The call to resign comes after numerous controversial episodes involving the council and its use of taxpayers’ money in the past 18 months.

In July he attracted heavy criticism after awarding himself and his deputy a 60 per cent allowance increase – a decision which resulted in three members of the council’s independent remuneration panel resigning in protest.

He quickly backtracked on the decision after a public backlash which included the council leader being accused of “showing contempt for hard-working families” by housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis.

In March last year, the council’s cabinet was criticised after this newspaper revealed more than £10,000 had been spent on hosting overnight conferences at the exclusive Farnham Castle, including nearly £5,000 on one visit.

Later that year, Mr Hodge was again criticised after the council’s people, performance and development committee, which he chairs, agreed to award council chief executive David McNulty a £100,000 bonus over five years.

It later emerged that many councillors didn’t even know a bonus payment had been discussed.

Later that year, Mr Hodge was accused of creating “jobs for the boys” after introducing four new cabinet associate roles, including an extra £5,000 a year in allowances for each one.

Introducing his petition on the county council website, Mr Harvard said Mr Hodge had “shown himself to be unsuitable as leader by his actions”, also citing the leader’s endorsement of using private venues for staff “away days”.

Despite calls for a response, council leader David Hodge has failed to comment on the petition.

He had also not responded to calls over whether he would consider standing down, as we went to press.

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