I am part of the Independents and Residents’ Association group at Surrey County Council. I was also shocked and disappointed that the Conservatives refused to engage in any debate about the hundreds of thousands of tax payers money they have wasted on our behalf. Full article here.
It is a challenging time to be standing for election as a Surrey County Councillor. The council itself has significant challenges. In the past few years, note:
- Failure to deliver some of the most basic services (Failed Ofsted inspection of Children’s Services, Failed HMI inspection of Fire and Rescue, cuts to local highway budget)
- Poor Financial Management (CIPFA Report)
- Cuts to Services
- High spending on high level permanent and interim staff and the rejection of an RA/Independent proposal for the open monitoring of the high salary costs
- Additional allowances for Conservative councillors
There has never been a greater need for Independent councillors who are able to scrutinise and challenge decisions free from party politics.
The council is composed of 81 elected Councillors, and in all but one election since 1965 the Conservative Partyy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surrey_County_Council has held the majority- there are currently 59 Conservatives, 9 Independent/Residents Assoc, 9 Lib Dems, 1 Labour, 1 Green. And, 1 vacant seat.
I am contesting the vacant seat.
More detailed reading below:
December 2018 CIPFA Criticism
Residents will no doubt be aware of the poor state of Surrey County Council’s finances. It is of course partly the result the Government’s reduction of the grant funding allocated to the County Council, but an independent Report by the well-respected Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), and commissioned by SCC itself, has severely criticised the County Council for its financial management and budget planning. https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/surrey-county-council-faces-unbridgeable-15161504
January 2019 SCC Fire & Rescue service declared Inadequate
Following on from the 2018 Ofsted Report which severely criticised SCC’s Children’s Services as failing, an Inspection by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has reported that SCC’s Fire and Rescue service is “Inadequate” at efficiently keeping people safe, and is failing to make the best use of its resources. This is further worrying evidence of a council failing in the delivery of some of the basic services which it is legally required to provide. https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/surrey-fire-rescue-rated-inadequate-15575032
February 2019 Spending on High Level Temporary Staff
At a time of cuts to services it is interesting to note that over the past year SCC has spent almost £2.5 million on temporary and interim staff, mostly on high level salaries. In one case SCC paid a recruitment company over £294k “to source and manage an interim Adult Social Care director” for a year.
Council Meeting March 2019
Conservatives voted down an RA/Independent recommendation to “amend the Terms of Reference of the People, Performance and Development Committee to provide for the monitoring of the costs of senior management salaries, interim appointments and redundancies” thus rejecting openness and transparency in regard to senior management pay.
Budget 2019 Included
- Closure of Children’s Centres
- Additional charges for household waste – construction wood and roofing felt, despite concerns over am increase in fly tipping
- The free travel concession for disabled pass holders will no longer start at 9.00am but will in future start at 9.30am on weekdays, all day at weekends and on bank holidays
- Further cuts to the local highway budget, the money allocated to fund locally determined highway maintenance work & improvements. So more bad news for our highways
Children’s Services rated as Inadequate by OFSTED in May 2018
SCC was rated inadequate for its services supporting children “who need help and protection”, and in leadership, management and governance. In its 2017 report, SCC was told “a number of children in Surrey who have been at risk of serious harm were not assessed, helped or protected quickly enough”. https://www.eagleradio.co.uk/news/local-news/2373475/serious-weaknesses-found-in-surrey-childrens-services/
May 2018 Surrey County Conservatives Vote Themselves More Money
At the May 2018 Surrey County Council Meeting, the Conservatives voted to create four new Deputy Cabinet Member posts to be filled by Conservative county councillors, with an allowance each of £10,000. In addition, and despite an Independent Review Panel recommendation that allowances be not paid to all Committee Vice Chairmen, the Conservatives also decided that they should continue to be paid.
In 2013, Haslemere voted for its first ever Independent Councillor for Surrey County Council.
Vote for Nikki Barton to turn that bottom corner of South West Surrey white again.
Today is Surrey County Council’s full council meeting in Kingston. Agenda here.
The council will decide on revenue and capital budget 2016/17 to 2020/21 and Treasury Management Strategy Management Strategy. Item here.
Here is the press statement the Residents’ Association and Independent Councillors at Surrey County Council:
Cabinet Budget Papers Reveal Real Challenges Ahead Say Residents’ Association & Independent Councillors
Budget Papers drafted for the Conservative Cabinet’s recommendation to the Surrey County Council Budget Meeting on Tuesday 9th February have been released. The Residents’ Association and Independent County councillors have criticised the budget proposals for their failure to provide any details of cuts, service changes or higher charges.
The Budget Papers show a £46 million funding gap, of which £20 million the Conservative leadership failed to anticipate and they will now dip into the Council’s reserves to plug the hole. Leader of the Opposition Nick Harrison said:
“The Council is in a truly serious position as this is on top of an aggressive savings plan already in hand. The Council leader refused today to set out his stall and tell us where he expects the cutbacks to land. At the Council’s Budget Meeting the Conservatives will produce a budget of large generalised figures asking Members to vote it through without the detail. Those cuts only become public weeks after the budget is passed. This ‘trust me I’m a politician’ approach to the serious business of reductions to services is undemocratic and lacks any opportunity for informed discussion of spending and service priorities.”
Haslemere Independent County Councillor Nikki Barton said:
“I have real fears for the discretionary services provided by SCC. The funding of much of highways, Children’s Centres, libraries, waste and youth services is not required by law and all these important services could now face cuts. Due to cuts in the waste services budget, Haslemere has recently lost its valued Saturday dustcart collection. Furthermore, and of great local concern is that all SCC funded youth work sessions at Haslewey, the town’s youth centre, have recently been axed. There are fears that the requirement for the Transport Review to reduce transport budget by £2m by the end of 2017/18 will lead to reductions in much needed local bus services.”
RA County Councillor Eber Kington criticised the Conservatives for their complacency and failure to anticipate and prepare for the Rate Support Grant cut announced by the Government.
“For the past year they have been telling us that they have the County Council’s finances under control and at the December Council Meeting they used their large majority to pass a Motion warmly welcoming ’a new Conservative Government which is listening to the voice of Local Government’. I don’t see much evidence of the Government listening to Surrey County Council when it comes to funding and the needs of our residents.”
Last week, I was interviewed by BBC Surrey on the subject of SCC budgets. Here is my interview (2 hours and 9 minutes in) (23 days left to listen).