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 2 October 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 eleven questions had been received. The questions and replies were published in a supplementary agenda on 7 October 2019.
A number of supplementary questions were asked and a summary of the main points is set out below:
(Q1) Mr Chris Townsendasked the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families for greater accuracy of the six month time frame for the process of ensuring ‘open access’ youth services. He also wanted more information with regards to the recommissioning of the level 2 Early Help 0-19 area of need.
Mr Harrison asked whether by making buildings available to voluntary sectors, it was the Council’s intention to charge rent as voluntary sectors could use that money to fund youth workers instead.
Mr Harris stated that despite turbulent times for youth services, a new youth group called MYTI was formed by passionate people in his local division. He asked whether the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families shared his belief of the need to create a ‘field of dreams’ through partnerships. That is was also important to encourage interim officers to take advantage of the knowledge of local Members on youth services and to get involved.
Dr Povey questioned whether youth buildings would be subsidised where the County Council did not own the buildings and it had to pay rent to local parish councils for their use.
The Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families thanked the Members for their questions and informed the Council that they were only four of fourteen Members on the briefing on youth services in Easter. Officers worked on a restructure to get the Targeted Youth Support and Specialist Safeguarding Adolescents Teams right, before the Universal Youth Work and Early Help 0-19 areas of need and statutory obligation of the Council were addressed. The report on the recommissioning of Early Help 0-19 was recently passed through Cabinet, lead providers across districts and boroughs would provide greater coherence and clarity as outlined by the previous Ofsted report. A consultation on Universal Youth Work would run in parallel with the Libraries consultation. This would be held within multiple districts and boroughs and would incorporate many sectors and organisations, to review how the Council’s buildings could be given free of charge. The consultation will be done area by area from November and a formal decision would be made in May on the local based provisions, with current short-term solutions in different youth centres.
(Q2) Mr Eber Kington was disappointed with the response not touching upon the specific issue of urban trees and asked the Cabinet Member for Environment and Waste if he was aware that Highways officers at the September 2019 Epsom and Ewell Local Committee were not proactive or positive as to explaining why more trees could not be planted in Surrey’s urban areas.
Mr Essex asked whether a draft of the Council’s tree planting policy could be circulated earlier than December, to ensure that the right trees could be ordered.
Mr MacLeod asked what could be done about the cutting of ailing trees to one metre high and whether there could be a commitment by housing developers to plant a tree for every house built.
As Cabinet Member for Highways, Mr Furniss asked the Cabinet Member whether he agreed that the Council’s partnership work with the Royal Horticultural Society on the best species of trees to plant was an alternative to direct engineering methods.
Mr Harmer asked the Cabinet Member whether he agreed that the strength of the carbon dioxide (CO2) was concentrated in urban areas so trees should be planted there. He also asked whether he planned to acquire saplings for urban areas, as rural areas were oversaturated with those saplings.
Mr Hawkins asked that from a planning perspective, careful regard for what is planted and where would be considered going forward and that there was a problem in his division to mitigate uprooted pavements.
The Cabinet Member for Environment and Waste stated that a strategy for finding the right trees for the future took time and the Council were working with Kew Gardens on this. He would also look at including the encouragement of developers to plant more trees into the strategy. Trees were being planted, the Leader of the Council and Chairman of the Council recently planted a tree at the Surrey Hills Wood Fair – at the Cranleigh Showground. Last weekend 611 trees were given to Surrey residents to plant. He hoped that the draft tree planting strategy would be available by November and noted that after forty years each tree would sequester one tonne of carbon dioxide.
(Q3) Mr Nick Darby asked the Leader of the Council how rent would be considered on the question of net savings to the Council when it moves from County Hall.
Mr Bennison queried what would happen to the paintings and furniture with the move from County Hall.
Mr Harrison questioned whether the Council were looking into freehold sites as a long-term solution.
The Leader of the Council stated that the building the Council was currently in negotiations for would be freehold and that the Council were paying business rates to Kingston Council – which would be eliminated with the move back into Surrey. The moveable assets would be taken.
(Q5) Mr Will Forster asked the Leader of the Council to back the Vehicle Emissions (Idling Penalties) Bill as soon as possible to improve air quality now.
The Leader of the Council replied that the Council were currently working on improving air quality and noted that there was a public health initiative in schools last year on that. He commented that presently, the Bill was short of detail but may include potential fines for vehicle idling outside schools. However, the Leader noted that the Bill must focus on the causes of atmospheric pollution and promote education, rather than being a revenue raising exercise.
(Q6) Mrs Nikki Barton asked the Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Fire and Resilience about how the Making Surrey Safer Plan for 2020 – 2023 strategy, could be reconciled with there being ‘no guarantee of the availability of either whole time or on-call staff’. It would take over two years to train on-call staff and there was already a shortage of resources.
The Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Fire and Resilience stated that she had given a detailed account of recruitment earlier in her petition response. The number of on-call firefighters would be increased through the two on-call new starter courses before April 2020, as outlined in the written question response. There would also be an upcoming independent evaluation led by the previous Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser for England, Sir Ken Knight.
(Q7) Mr Stephen Cooksey asked the Cabinet Member for Finance if a contract had been awarded for the work on the further education building in Dorking and if there was a start date.
The Cabinet Member for Finance stated that there would be work on the site by the end of December 2019.
(Q8)Mr Eber Kington asked the Leader of the Council if he would ensure thatemails sent by Cabinet Members reporting the details of inspection reports would be an unedited list of progress made and that areas of continuing concern would be highlighted with no exclusions. Furthermore, if he could advise Members of the service areas that would be of significant concern if inspected that day.
Mrs Lewis asked if the Leader of the Council would agree that one way that Members could be better informed was to attend the member briefings held regularly, as attendance had been low for recent briefings concerning both children’s and youth services. She noted that when letters went out on substantial progress made, - such as the Children's Single Point of Access (C-SPA) - they acted as enablers for change across services. She also asked whether there was a good balance between praising officers on their work - through the positive feedback from one monitoring visit - and being realistic about future areas for improvement concerning children’s services.
The Leader of the Council stated that the Cabinet regularly updated Members on the current work in progress, there was a Transformation Programme and the four select committees, working groups and member briefings ensured transparency and facilitated Member engagement.
(Q10) Mr Eber Kington asked the Leader of the Council why he was reluctant to have the senior management paid cost centre monitored annually by a specific committee.
Mr Essex asked if the Leader of the Council could confirm the senior posts were full-time, or if not how many were interim.
The Leader of the Council stated that there was no lack of transparency as the People, Performance and Development Committee (PPDC) was responsible for determining the policy on pay, contractual terms and the conditions of employment for all staff. It was not the place of elected Members to instruct the Chief Executive on the employment or expenditure of her offices and senior salaries were published on the Council’s website. The Council ensured that a commercial rate was paid to attract good quality staff. There was a significant reduction of interim senior posts, but he would come back to the Member with an accurate answer.
Cabinet Member Briefings:
These were also published with the supplementary on 7 October 2019.
There were no comments made by Members.