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 5 October 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 18 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 drew attention to the following indices in the Prudential Survey on the Quality of Retirement Index: (i) Disability Free Life Expectancy,
(ii) Access to Health Care, and (iii) Crime Levels, and asked the Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Health to consider options to improve these areas for Surrey residents. The Cabinet Member made reference to the Health and Wellbeing Board, which she considered had done an excellent job in the last two years. She agreed to take the points raised by Mr Evans into account when the Surrey Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy was refreshed.
(Q2) Mr Kington asked the Leader of the Council for details of any opposition Member who had requested that the Council produced a summary version of the Annual report. Mr Young asked the Leader of the Council if he agreed that the booklet reflected the views of all councillors.
The Leader of the Council said that the County Council has a duty to produce this information and considered that it was a useful document for Members to use when engaging with residents in their divisions.
(Q4) Mrs Watson said that she remained concerned about certain aspects of risk relating to the County Council’s investment in commercial buildings and their residual value. She asked the Cabinet Member for Business Services and Resident Experience for more information. The Cabinet Member provided a detailed response, including stating that capital appreciation was not taken into account in these assessments.
(Q5) Mr Forster expressed disappointment that nearly £10K had been spent on fifty Blackberry devices which were now not used and asked the Cabinet Member for Children and Families Wellbeing for the current location of the devices. She agreed that the outcome for their use had been disappointing and confirmed that the devices were held by the Council but were unsaleable.
(Q6) Mr Forster considered that it was unacceptable that Surrey residents had such short notice to alterations to the bus service provision in North West Surrey. The Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning sympathised with the situation, which he said was not the fault of the County Council. He said that Abellio had decided to terminate nine bus services with effect from 31 December 2016. The County Council had now re-tendered the routes but the timescales were challenging and there would be insufficient time for a full consultation. However, he provided assurance that he would be working to obtain a satisfactory solution for Surrey residents.
(Q7) Mr Beardsmore requested that the Leader of the Council re-considered his response and said that he had already approached his MP to press for a more balance transition for changes to state pension arrangements for this group of women.
(Q8) Mr Sydney said that he had not seen a copy of the tender documents which had probably been drawn up several months after officers’ visit to the farm in January 2016. It was his view that the farm buildings must be repaired by September and that the Council was not acting in the best interest of its farming community. The Cabinet Member for Business Services and Resident Experience disagreed, stating that she did value the work of Surrey’s farming communities. She said that Property Services officers were doing everything they could to expedite this issue, which was complex.
(Q9) Mr Hussain asked the Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and Health for assurance that the ambulance station in Knaphill, a very congested area, would not close until a risk assessment had been undertaken. The Cabinet Member confirmed that she had written to Northwest Surrey CCG and hoped for a robust reply, which she would share with him.
(Q10) Mr Essex asked whether this Council would consider linking up with other County Councils to ensure that the Government provided adequate funding for Adult Social Care because the Council needed a better deal for its residents.
Mr Mallett was concerned about the lack of clarity in relation to the revenue losses being proposed by Government and asked the Leader for a table setting out gains / losses, which could be circulated to Members.
The Leader of the Council said that there would be an opportunity for Members to make their views known on the Government’s proposed four year settlement offer later in the agenda. He also confirmed that he would continue to lobby Government for a better funding deal for Surrey and that the Budget meeting in February 2017 would be the right time to consider options.
(Q11) Mr Young asked the Leader of the Council, who agreed, that all Members of the County Council should abide by the Council’s new Customer Promise.
(Q12) Mr Robert Evans invited the Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning to accompany him on a cycling trip across North West Surrey so that he could experience the issues relating to cycling, including some disjointed cycling lanes. The Cabinet Member said that officers were currently working on developing new standards for a cycling infrastructure so that funding could be secured to develop high quality and joined up cycle routes. He agreed to accept Mr Evans’ invite.
(Q14) Mr Beardsmore requested that the Cabinet Member for Business Services and Resident Experience provided him, outside the meeting, with details relating to the number of tenants in Surrey’s investment properties that had a Grade A credit rating and also to include the length of their tenancy agreements. She agreed to this request.
(Q15) Mr Essex asked the Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning whether the fixed term, one year appointment of an enforcement officer could be made a permanent appointment. The Cabinet Member explained that this officer would be co-ordinating with Boroughs and Districts to consider the issue of fly-tipping. He confirmed that whilst it was a Criminal Act and a serious issue, the number of incidents so far had not increased since the introduction of charges at the Community Recycling Centres.
(Q16) Mr Young asked the Leader of the Council if all Members should abide by the Seven Principles of Public Life and in particular, those relating to Openness and Leadership. The Leader read out the seven Nolan Principles and informed him that a copy of them was on the wall in the Cabinet room. He hoped that all Members would abide by them and he would ask the Democratic Services Lead Manager to re-circulate them to all Members.
(Q17) Mr Essex asked the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Wellbeing and Independence to clarify the differing percentage figures in paragraph 2 of his written response, which he did.
(Q18) Mr Young expressed his thanks to the Surrey Arts team and in particular to key officers within the team and invited the Leader of the Council to add his appreciation. The Leader referred Members to his response, in which he had already expressed his thanks.
Cabinet Member Briefings on their portfolios are attached as Appendix C.
Members made the following comments:
Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning: Concern was raised about Abellio’s decision to downsize their operation for bus service provision in Surrey, particularly in the Weybridge / Walton / Esher area. The Cabinet Member was urged to work closely with Elmbridge Borough Council to mitigate the impact. He acknowledged the challenging issue and said that negotiations were still on-going with Abellio and agreed to keep all Members informed of the outcome.
A request was also made to have further discussions with St Peter’s hospital in relation to the bus service no. 557.
On future proposals for rail schemes, when asked whether any work had been undertaken on the actual spare capacity and demand against it, the Cabinet Member confirmed that there was very little spare capacity on Surrey’s rail lines. He also informed Members that work on various proposals for a southern rail access to Heathrow airport from Surrey should be completed in November and would be shared widely with Members.
That since the changes made at the Community Re-cycling Centres, there had been an increase in the number of complaints relating to bonfires so did the Cabinet Member have any suggestions to help residents? He responded by advising of the importance of working together with both boroughs and the police to resolve this issue.
Deputy Leader – agreed to discuss Mrs Lake’s question concerning MIPIM UK outside the meeting.
Cabinet Member for Children and Families Wellbeing – in relation to the Ofsted inspection (31 August – 1 September 2016), the Cabinet Member confirmed that the County Council was maintaining a sharp focus on those areas where it was known that further sustained improvement was required and this was monitored through the Improvement Board.
Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Flooding was asked how Members could suggest schemes for inclusion in the Pavement Horizon programme. The Cabinet Member informed the County Council that an email was sent to all Members in May inviting their suggestions.