(1) The Leader of the Council or the appropriate Member of the Cabinet or the Chairman of a Committee to answer any questions on any matter relating to the powers and duties of the County Council, or which affects the county.
(Note: Notice of questions in respect of the above item on the agenda must be given in writing, preferably by e-mail, to Anne Gowing in Democratic Services by 12 noon on Wednesday 9 March 2016).
(2) Cabinet Member Briefings on their portfolios
These will be circulated by email to all Members prior to the County Council meeting, together with the Members’ questions and responses.
There will be an opportunity for Members to ask questions.
Notice of eight questions had been received. The questions and replies are attached as Appendix B.
A number of supplementary questions were asked and a summary of the main points is set out below:
(Q1) Mr Robert Evans asked the Deputy Leader for assurance that he would monitor the ‘state of play’ closely and have a legal team on standby should it become necessary. The Deputy Leader agreed to monitor the situation but said that he would be reluctant to rush into litigation.
(Q2) Mrs Windsor asked the Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Health when the County Council would be signing up to the Motor Neurone Disease Charter. She also said that she hoped that the Leader / Deputy Leader would support it. The Cabinet Member could not give a timeframe but said that she didn’t envisage any problems in signing it. She also said that she would like Mrs Windsor’s resident to be invited to the Health and Wellbeing Board to present her case.
(Q3) Mr Townsend requested that arrangement for the three newly created senior leadership roles in the Children, Schools and Families Directorate be reviewed in one year’s time to ensure that it was working satisfactorily. The Cabinet Member for Schools, Skills and Educational Achievement agreed to the request and said that she would be keeping the new structure under close review to ensure all workstreams were in place.
(Q4) Mrs Watson asked for clarity on who would make any decision to reduce grant or contract funding to particular organisations and would Members or carers be involved.
Also Q4, Mr Mallett asked the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Wellbeing and Independence to confirm that the £17.4m savings was ‘real money’ and also what percentage of the grants / contracts it represented? He also asked for confirmation that front line services would not be affected by the cuts. Mr Essex requested information about the Equality Impact Assessments (EIA).
The Cabinet Member’s response to the supplementary questions was that 116 organisations in Surrey received approximately £22m in grants from the Council and that it was currently working in partnership with the voluntary organisations to examine these grants and contracts carefully. He also confirmed that going forward EIAs would be produced.
(Q5) Mr Beardsmore queried the last sentence of the response from Cabinet Member for Schools, Skills and Educational Achievement and said how could the Council work with schools to manage the transition if there had not been a decision on the proposed national funding formula for schools. The Cabinet Member said that the Council knew the broad terms of the proposals but detail was being released in a piecemeal fashion and that she would update Mr Beardsmore when she had more information.
(Q6) The Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Flooding provided a verbal response to Members, which he agreed to circulate after the meeting. He said that:
· The £6m pavement programme would follow the lines of Project Horizon.
· Last year, Highways officers had carried out a full assessment to determine the functionality and impairment of this network.
· Due to funding decisions that have had to be made, the funding for Year 1 had been set but in subsequent years, local committee input would be required to determine the programme, in consultation with residents.
· The method of allocation had been graded in the officers’ review by priority 1-4 and details would be sent to local committee Chairmen and Members shortly.
Both Mr Cooksey and Mr Essex asked for the level of funding in the 2016/17 budget for this project and whether it would come out of the budget for safety defects on roads and if not, where was the funding coming from? Mrs White asked the Cabinet Member if he agreed that developers should reinstate pavements damaged by their building works and suggested that there was a need for sufficient enforcement officers to make this happen.
The Cabinet Member confirmed that, as announced by the Leader, there was £6m to invest in pavement restoration this year, out of a £20m budget for this work over the next 5/6 years. He also confirmed that Project Horizon for roads was still in place and that Years 4 and 5 of this programme would go ahead. Finally, he said that he would discuss Mrs White’s request with the Leader.
(Q7) Mr Kington asked the Leader of the Council if he was committed to supporting reform of the County Council’s budget making process and was advised by the Leader that all Scrutiny Boards had the right to request information to scrutinise services and that it could be requested earlier with Members working on provisional data.
(Q8) Mr Cooksey asked the Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Flooding if he would agree that Boroughs and Districts should be informed, as a matter of course, when gully emptying and cleaning was about to take place. The Cabinet Member agreed that Boroughs and Districts should be advised and that as part of the Devolution discussions, the County Council would discuss improvements to these working practices with them and then advise Members.
Cabinet Member Briefings on their portfolios are attached as Appendix C.
Members made the following comments:
· The Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning was asked to explain the benefits of the Rural Statement for Surrey, issued last week, which he did. He also said that he would provide copies of the document to all Members.
· The Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Wellbeing and Independence was asked for his view on the funding shortfall in his portfolio and to expand on the issues facing Adult Social Care. The Cabinet Member said that increased demand continued to be an issue, as was the status of providers in the market and the impact of the introduction of the living wage on those providers. The transition of special needs children into the Adult Social Care service was also significant. He hoped that, if demand continued to increase that the Government would allow an increased precept going forward.
· In response to a query about joint commissioning of the Occupational Therapy Service, the Cabinet Member for Schools, Skills and Educational Achievement confirmed that speech therapy was included within the contract.
· The Cabinet Member for Schools, Skills and Educational Achievement was pleased to report that secondary school places had recently been allocated for September 2016. Applications had increased by 11,000 but 85% of Surrey pupils had been offered their first preference, with 96% of Surrey pupils being offered one of their six preferences. She acknowledged that there were a few problem areas and in response to a plea from the Member for Claygate, agreed to try to resolve the issues in that area.
· Mr Kington asked the Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Health several detailed questions relating to Welfare Reform and the impact on low paid families, in relation to their council tax payments and the Borough / District hardship fund. The Cabinet Member agreed to respond outside the meeting.