Agenda item


Purpose of report:


To provide the Committee with an update and overview of the activity of the Environment Transport and Infrastructure (ETI) Directorate in providing services over the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the latest efforts to recover services to a new normal.





Denise Turner Stewart, Cabinet Member for Communities

Natalie Bramhall, Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change

Matt Furniss, Cabinet Member for Transport


Katie Stewart, Executive Director – Environment, Transport and Infrastructure


Key points raised during the discussion:

  1. The Cabinet Member for Communities provided an overview of the work of the Environment Transport and Infrastructure (ETI) Directorate during COVID-19. An International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) accreditation approach was being undertaken and a new Director of Resilience would add additional capacity to the service. The Cabinet Member relayed how the relationship with funeral directors had been crucial throughout this period in enabling the death management approach to run smoothly. Protecting the workforce and preparing staff return to work was being undertaken, with the help from the health and safety team, whilst the support for armed forces personnel had continued and new grants awarded for the veteran’s hub.


  1. With regard to the Coroners Service, the Cabinet Member reported that there had been a significant reduction in waiting times for post-mortems, with a marked improvement in systems and processes. Hearings had continued with remote access enabled for the public.


  1. Simultaneously, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) had continued to respond to all emergencies whilst developing the community protection offer. SFRS was one of the first services to access key worker testing and the council was supporting the National Fire Chiefs Council in lessons learned with partner fire and rescue services. The Community Protection Group had advanced on its transformation programme – building back services and acting as a key component in the COVID-19 response. The Community Safety Team had been working to support domestic abuse provision and a new refuge had been established.


  1. The Chairman referred to the government’s active travel grants querying the status of the council’s bids. The Cabinet Member stated that, in total, the government had allocated £8.5m to Surrey and the council had applied for the first tranche of this to be granted as revenue funding. The majority of this funding would go on measures already being installed in Farnham, Reigate & Banstead and Mole Valley. The focus would largely be on unpedestrianised retail areas. These pilots would develop the template for the rest of the county, and it was anticipated that the second tranche of funding would be received in the summer. A newly appointed officer had increased the capacity of the team for project development.


  1. The Chairman asked whether Members and residents could be involved in the process prior to the submission of bids. The Cabinet Member responded that a new virtual map on where residents could mark and nominate areas for improvement was due to be launched and would help prioritisation. The Cabinet Member assured the Committee that Members would be included in any consultations taking place in their area, and urged Members to think how walking, cycling and bus routes could be improved in their area.


  1. The Chairman raised pressures on bus operators due to the declining bus usage during lockdown. This conflicted with both the council’s Rethinking Transport and Climate Change Strategies that had prioritised increased public transport use. The Cabinet Member stated that proposals were still being implemented and there had been a spike in patronage with every easing of lockdown restrictions. Buses were starting to return to their normal timetables (approximately 80% were already operating at normal timetables and the Cabinet Member would provide this information to members retrospectively). Payments to bus operators had continued and the government’s bus operators grant was still effective. The Cabinet Member assured the Committee that provision for buses would continue with an associated campaign to promote greater bus use in due course.


Jonathan Essex joined the meeting at 10:50

  1. A Member queried the impact that the £20m deficit in government subsidy due to COVID-19 and the redeployment of staff to manage the emergency would have on the council’s financial recovery programme that had been underway before lockdown. The Cabinet Member for Communities stated that, in fact, some services had improved during COVID-19. Close working with partners to increase local resilience had created closer working relationships. The Executive Director had worked to maintain momentum on programmes such as Rethinking Transport, Rethinking Waste, the Climate Strategy, and the new Tree Strategy. Staff had modified their ways of working to ensure this work continued whilst others were redeployed. Financial pressure would be felt but a review of the ETI Directorate was underway which would give an opportunity to maximise the existing staff and resource. Transformation would continue to be a priority as would partnership, cross-sector and organisation working.


  1. A Member referred to the reopening of community recycling centres (CRCs) and questioned what plans were in place to accept all waste types whilst adhering to social distancing measures. The Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change stated that officers were already working with SUEZ to reopen the small CRCs and a date for the reopening of three more was expected to be announced on 19 June. Initially, the smaller CRCs would be accepting green waste only. The Cabinet Member stated that a booking system would not be put in place.




Actions/Further information requested:

i.              The Cabinet Member for Transport to provide the Committee with information on what percentage of buses are operating at a business as usual timetable.


Supporting documents: