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 Democratic Services by 12 noon on Wednesday 4 December 2019).
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 ten questions had been received. The questions and replies were published in a supplementary agenda on 9 December 2019.
A number of supplementary questions were asked and a summary of the main points is set out below:
(Q1) Mr Robert Evans asked the Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Fire and Resilience if she felt that the current reciprocated use of Surrey’s fire services in the county with neighbouring forces was the most efficient way to run Surrey’s Fire and Rescue Service. That in recent discussions with firefighters they expressed concern on the differing approaches and training between fire services and noted the lack of contingency for the water rescue service.
The Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Fire and Resiliencestated that Surrey Fire and Rescue Service reciprocated more incidents in neighbouring forces than it received. Water rescue facilities were based in Walton andFordbridge and were adequately equipped to deal with evolving risks such as flooding.Those practices had been in place since 1947 in the Fire Services Act and Surrey had the most advanced system in the United Kingdom to identify the nearest suitable appliances to deploy.
(Q3) Mr Chris Botten asked that in subsequent papers, the Organisation Strategy 2020-2025 and the Next Phase of Transformation be amended to reflect the written question response by the Leader of the Council.
Mr Essex noted that as the Council had £100 million available in the Community Investment Fund, whether it could be used to address the ‘Climate Emergency’.
The Leader of the Council responded to Member queries by stating that the purpose of the Community Investment Fund was to support meaningful projects in local communities - not solely restricted to addressing climate change or highways improvements. The Fund would be spent appropriately through regulation by Member and officer boards and the Leader suggested that there would be a future all-member workshop on the issue in early 2020.
(Q4) Mrs Hazel Watson stated that she would be happy to champion the Cabinet Member for Highway’s recommendations - as the relevant cabinet member in her district council - as detailed in his written response and sought clarification on the responsible officer for parking enforcement within the County Council.
The Cabinet Member for Highways responded by thanking the Member for her support on the matter and would notify her of the appropriate contact.
(Q5) Mr Jonathan Essex asked the Leader of the Council to confirm why food banks were part of the Council’s future vision of ‘looking forward’ within the Impact Statement. That the conversion of the Council’s surplus land should not be restricted to public allotments where food would be grown voluntarily but should include community initiatives that employed people on the land.
The Leader of the Council responded by stating that he would look to change the wording from ‘looking forward’ and would support community initiatives to address the issues. He had recently spoken to the Chief Executive of the Trussell Trust and would look to extend to the initiatives that the Member proposed. He noted that other organisations on homelessness for example, would welcome the use of surplus land for providing food. He stressed that it was ultimately for residents to have the freedom to decide what they wanted to do with surplus land in their community.
(Q6) Mr Robert Evans asked the Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Fire and Resilience if she shared his concern that there should be continual fire safety checks to identify buildings with hazardous cladding and that all Members had a role in identifying buildings with vulnerable inhabitants.
The Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Fire and Resilience stated that the written response outlined the hard work of officers in that area and Surrey Fire and Rescue Service used Experian data to accurately identify who inhabits certain buildings and the nature of buildings. Following the Grenfell inquiry, Members were assured that no buildings in Surrey were at risk from hazardous cladding due to subsequent remediation.
(Q7) Mrs Hazel Watson asked the Cabinet Member for Highways if he agreed that the pilot schemes concerning the Rethinking Transport programmewere not sufficiently ambitious and did not reflect the need to provide more bus services in rural areas.
Mr Hall asked if one of the pilot schemes would include access to Woking and the Council’s new building Midas House, to help those travelling from the east of the county.
Mr O’Reilly noted that the three pilot schemes were ambitious and asked if there was a budget associated with the schemes.
The Cabinet Member for Highways explained that he did agree with the importance of rural bus services and added that improving air quality was also a focus. He was looking at ways to ease Member’s travel to Woking and commented that the pilot schemes had been budgeted and would be reported to Members through the appropriate committee processes.
(Q9) Mr Robert Evans recommended that the Cabinet Member for Environment and Waste would rewrite the last sentence of his written reply to make sense.
Cabinet Member Briefings:
These were also published in the supplementary agenda on 9 December 2019.
Members made the following comments:
Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families: on the development of the Council’s Integrated Care System (ICS) through the commissioning of children’s services for Surrey Heartlands, a Member asked whether the Council were moving at pace to improve integration within health and social care for all children in the county.
The Cabinet Member responded that the delivery of children’s services was moving at pace as evidenced by yesterday’s member briefing on the service, noting the range of questions asked on the presentation by the Executive Director for Children, Families and Learning. It was exciting that the Council would take over the commissioning of children’s health provisions for Surrey Heartlands, as two priorities of the Council to improve children’s social care and SEND provision were heavily linked with health. The Council’s children with disabilities team would be her focus in 2020 and she noted the culture change needed within health to be more residents focused.
Cabinet Member for Highways: on the Epsom Market Improvement Project, asked when the legal agreement between the County Council and Epsom and Ewell Borough Council on management of the Marketplace would be signed - in place of the current partnership agreement with Kier.
The Deputy Leader of the Council informed the Member that it was being signed and would shortly be finalised, as legal officers between the Councils had agreed amendments.
Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Prosperity and Infrastructure: on the recent member briefing concerning the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) and what thoughts he had to ensure progression with the Coast to Capital LEP in the east of Surrey.
The Deputy Leader explained that he was working with both LEPs, Enterprise M3 in the west and Coast to Capital in the east - in particular - but noted that there was no new funding for any of the LEPs, there were changes to the grading of funding and that current funding must be spent by 2021. A recent bidding round redistributed funding from projects that were not delivered to Coast to Capital, within Leatherhead and Tandridge in the east of Surrey.
Mr Nick Harrison declared a personal interest as the chair of governors to a maintained primary school in Surrey
Cabinet Member for All-Age Learning: urged caution on appealing the decision by Surrey Schools Forum to reject the transfer of £3.3 million of funding to the high needs block of SEND to the Secretary of State; until Surrey County Council reviewed its funding on SEND in relation to its education health and care assessments and plans (EHCPs).
In response the Cabinet Member explained that the Council were in the process of reviewing that funding and noted that not all schools responded to the proposal by Surrey Schools Forum, some schools rejects the proposals as they thought the Government’s funding was inadequate. The Council were addressing EHCP response times by working in consultation with parents, but noted the challenge of funding.
Cabinet Member for Environment and Waste: on the consultation on the Tree Strategy concerning the planting of trees and if the consultees included residents, local voluntary groups and Members and if they would be consulted before the draft was signed-off - in late November the Cabinet Member for Highways noted that he could not offer any more information until the draft was signed-off.
A Member asked the Cabinet Member if there were any other options available for tree planting, as he noted that a local group who wanted to plant ten trees were quoted over £3,000 by a company that the Council suggested.
A Member commented that there were tree wardens in Spelthorne and it cost them £35 to plant trees there, he asked the Cabinet Member to address the cost disparity across Surrey.
In response, the Cabinet Member stated that the Council were working collaboratively with a number of companies on tree planting and noted the maturity of trees over the next 30 years was important. He informed the Member that he did not recognise the figures quoted and asked him to send the details over to be looked at. He noted that residents and tree wardens were important contributors on tree planting. The Cabinet Member explained that there were two consultations, the overarching Tree Strategy - delayed launch due to the general election - to which all borough and district councils, residents and organisations would be given copies of to give their feedback by mid-February and the other consultation concerned urban tree planting in conjunction with the Cabinet Member for Highways.
Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Fire and Resilience: on the maintenance and planned improvements for the County’s Public Rights of Way network, a Member asked if the Cabinet Member would agree to have a dedicated cycle planner to ensure the improvement works happened and if there was sufficient capital to address bridges which were out of action.
In response, the Cabinet Member commented that there was a significant capital investment plan and she was happy to share that with the Member and noted that the Cabinet Member for Highways was working on merging cycle routes with footways.
Cabinet Member for Adults and Public Health: a Member asked for confirmation that priority was given to achieve parity on funding for both mental and physical health by lobbying all involved.
In response, the Leader of the Council could not give an absolute guarantee on parity but commented that there was significant investment in addressing mental health which included the work done through Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) - out for re-tender next year. He also noted that the Council were working on the provisioning of mental health in conjunction with Surrey Heartlands and he would provide the Member with a specific answer to the funding parity in due course.
Mr Will Forster arrived at 11.10am