Agenda item


Council is asked to approve the 2021/22 Final Budget and Medium-Term Financial Strategy to 2025/26.


  • Leader’s Statement (Budget) - to be appended to the minutes.



The Leader presented the 2021/22 Final Budget and Medium-Term Financial Strategy to 2025/26 and made a statement in support of the proposed budget. A copy of the Leader’s statement is attached as Appendix A.


Each of the Minority Group Leaders (Mr Darby and Mr Botten) were invited to speak on the budget proposals.


Key points made by Mr Darby were that:


·         Noted the background of the budget including the fact that the Government’s Spending Review 2020 was for one year only, there was no Fairer Funding Review, there were mixed messages about Covid-19 funding and its adequacy for local authorities, Adult Social Care (ASC) funding proposals were still missing, there was an acknowledgement that mental health issues were increasing - spend per head in Surrey was among the lowest in the country - there was press speculation about the changes to Council Tax and Stamp Duty Land Tax and that there was no evidence of dealing with extra funding by adding more top tier Council Tax bands to ensure greater fairness which he had recommended.

·         That for the first time the funding for the Council’s 2021/22 final budget totalled over £1,003.6 million, with over £1 million daily for ASC and £500,000 daily for Children’s Services; noting the 2.49% increase in Council Tax but anticipated the possibility of a 4.49% increase next year above inflation.

·         Welcomed that the budget balanced without the use of reserves, which had been achieved despite the pressures of pay increases, inflation and increased demand particularly in ASC and Children’s Services; but noted the use of efficiencies or cuts in recent years such as to youth centres and Sure Start Children’s Centres.

·         Noted that the need to make efficiency savings highlighted the Council’s past inefficiencies as demonstrated in the Council’s failed value for money test in its previous annual audit.

·         In reference to the Council’s continued focus on a strength-based approach, noted misgivings as how that was applied to care packages and that the market management of care home places implied significant cost reductions despite a time of increased demand.

·         Highlighted failed inspections concerning Children’s Services and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), Youth Offending Services, Surrey Fire and Rescue Services (SFRS), the ambulance service and the need to take the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) contract back in-house.

·         That it was difficult to tell residents that the Council was making necessary organisational savings as more senior officers earning £100,000 a year were added to the payroll, raising the total from nine to twenty-six.

·         That reputation was equally important as the Council’s finances, questioned the Council’s reputation for providing decent services, being prudent with residents’ money and being a can-do organisation.

·         Noted major concern over the Council’s commercial property investments, noting that the costly property review undertaken two years ago achieved little and the property joint venture with Places for People had achieved nothing.

·         That the Council had spent £50 million on Woodhatch Place - with a further £90,000 for the Woodhatch travel plan to fund the necessary green arrangements - and £17 million for the Dakota building in Brooklands, the receipts on the sale of County Hall would not meet those costs and so borrowing costs would increase and there was no guarantee of the planned £3 million in annual savings as a result of the move.

·         Noted the wasted costs for the past intended office purchase in Woking and the wasted cost for the Council’s intended bid for unitary authority status - together reaching more than £500,000, hoped that there was not a contingency in the budget for a renewed attempt at the latter.

·         Welcomed the spending on extra care homes with the promise for a better quality of life at a reduced cost, as well as the spending for Looked After Children and SFRS, the planned spending on flood defences, buses to assist the Council’s climate change ambition, to address the highway maintenance backlog and building repair - although the latter was a belated attempt to redress years of neglect.

·         That for any overall increase in spend on highways, the preference was for an increase in Member allocations for their division; the £1.1 million intended increase in borrowing from the total of £35 million a year in 2020/21 would rise to £74 million a year in five years, placing pressure on other services.

·         That there remained confusion on whether the Council was facilitating the planting of 1.2 million trees by 2030 or was paying and planting those itself.

·         That the revenue loss for keeping libraries closed may need to come from contingency sums or from the Government as a legitimate Covid-19 cost.

·         That over the next four years there was a planned further £178 million reduction needed in the Council’s finances or £290 million including identified efficiencies, implying a huge rise in future Council Tax.

·         Thanked officers for their work and the Council’s work to stabilise the finances, welcoming some proposals but noted that there were too many issues, past failures and likely future issues so could not recommend the budget.

·         Thanked Council staff and colleagues in other organisations for their continued immense work to keep Surrey safe throughout the pandemic.


Key points made by Mr Botten were that:


·         Despite the difficult times during the pandemic, he welcomed the Leader’s comments made about partnership working as well as the inspiring work undertaken by officers and the Communications team. 

·         Praised the leadership of the Council’s Public Health team which had been outstanding.

·         Commended the huge progression that the Council had made to get the budget back on track from the troubling position four years ago, thanking the work of talented officers, although noted the previous CIPFA report and that the Council should never have been in that negative position in the first place.

·         Noted that challenging times lay ahead with the upcoming 2021 United Kingdom local elections and that it would be difficult to engage with residents fairly in the run up to it.

·         Stressed the importance of the Council understanding the relationship and gap between the strategic impression that the budget would create and the impact on the frontline to households - such as flood prevention work.

·         That all budgets were about making political choices, noting that a major section of previous budgets had been the delivery of extra care housing and the resolution of the Council’s property portfolio.

·         Noted disappointment over recurring delays in Council’s property portfolio such as the empty properties across the county, with wasted resources in the Places for People property joint venture as work on fifteen sites that began in 2019 had been undelivered.

·         Welcomed the Leader’s relocation of the Council’s civic heart to Woodhatch Place, noting that the Council could deliver property transformation when it put its mind to it and that skill and momentum needed to be transferred into its broader property portfolio.

·         Noted the successes in the Transformation Programme but that it was also a way of generating efficiencies such as through the imaginative use of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) High Needs Block in SEND to offset the need to use reserves, despite the future impact on families and schools. 

·         Noted concern over possible future hidden charges, noting point 31 in the Equality Impact Assessment of ‘An efficiency proposal for on street parking charges’ and point 34 ‘We are also considering options for introducing charging for some of our processes within Children’s Services’.

·         Noted concerns that the budget for the Family Resilience delivered £0.2 million in savings despite the significant impact of Covid-19 on children’s mental health, that Corporate Parenting received no apparent uplift despite the increasing number of care placements required, that SFRS was required to make £500,000 in efficiencies despite the investment in infrastructure; and that ASC needed to deliver £12 million in efficiencies despite the crisis in independent care homes and the fragile care market.

·         Noted that the Council’s phasing of the ASC precept was wise and shared the Leader’s concern that the Government needed to ensure long-term and sustainable ASC funding.

·         That the budget was silent on preparations for further bids for unitary authority status, noting the £250,000 in wasted costs for the previous intended bid and the damage to its relationship with the district and borough councils, as joint working had been and would be essential post pandemic.

·         Welcomed the focus on public sector reform through the work on the integration of health and social care.

·         Recognised progress made on the budget but did not yet recognise victory.


Mr Chris Botten moved an amendment, presenting an alternative budget proposal (included in the supplementary agenda) with amended budget recommendations, which was formally seconded by Mr Will Forster. This was:


(amended wording in bold and underlined)


2.    That it is the view of the Executive Director of Resources (Section 151 Officer), that the level of reserves is adequate to meet the Council’s needs for 2021/22. These reserves include the following amounts, (totalling £91.9m £91.5m) set aside specifically to provide financial resilience:


·         a General Fund Balance of £24.2m;

·         a budget contingency of £20.4m £20.0m with an estimated £33.4m brought forward;

·         a specific contingency for the impact of Covid-19 of £4.9m; and

·         a provision of £9m to meet risks in delivering the Dedicated Schools Grant – High Needs Block cost containment plan.


14.  The total £1.905 £1.931 billion proposed five-year Capital Programme (comprising £1,026.2m £1,052.3m of budget and £879.2m pipeline) and approves the £184.9 £187.8 million capital budget in 2021/22 (Annex C).


In support of his amendment, Mr Botten made the following points:


·         That the Council needed to spend more money on road safety.

·         Noted the negative experiences had on the Local Committee which was a constant fight for highways schemes and subsequent rebuttals which was the fault of the system and its ‘say no’ culture.

·         That alternative ways of funding had to be sought such as going to the parish council for a speed sign or a feasibility study for further road safety schemes.

·         That the amendment should help address those problems concerning the funding of road safety schemes, there needed to be a serious culture change in Local Committees towards a positive approach addressing residents’ petitions on road safety as one example.


As seconder to the amendment, Mr Foster made the following points:


·         That the budget as unamended was unacceptable as it makes far too few road safety and transport improvements.

·         That Local and Joint Committees received requests and petitions for road safety improvements yet the Council was unable and unwilling to take those on.

·         That the Council’s Your Fund Surrey allocation was meant to be for residents to lodge requests for community projects but instead it had requests for the Council to invest in statutory services like transport improvements such as cycle facilities and zebra crossings, as the Council was not providing those.

·         Recognised that the Cabinet had made a modification to the budget which took on board some of the amendment’s criticism concerning the lack of highways investment, which the Leader noted in his statement for the Council to commit to more spending on local transport projects.

·         Urged Members to support the amendment so the Council could deliver further road safety measures that residents requested.  


Twelve Members spoke on the amendment, making the following points:


·      Noted disappointment in the last-minute amendment, drawing Members’ attention to the email sent last Friday as Cabinet Member for Highways which set out the significant additional money already provided to Local and Joint Committees.

·      Noted that increases in the capital programme within the budget would pick up a lot of local schemes and the Surrey Infrastructure Programme and Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs) would deliver road safety in a holistic way rather than the amendment’s narrow focus.

·         That over the last few years the Council had allocated an annual capital budget of £200,000 for road safety improvements and in a typical year around twenty road safety highways improvements were implemented.

·         That current highways monitoring had shown an average reduction of 30-40% in the number of injury road collisions at the treated site and there were over six hundred vehicle activated signs in Surrey noting warnings to drivers including hazards and speed limits, that amount was more than any other county.

·         That in addition to the central pot of money for road safety improvement, the Local Committees were allocated additional money - totalling £13 million over the next three years - for highways improvements in which Members could use them as they wished in conjunction with the scoring matrix.

·         That extra officers and the job creation element outlined in the amendment were not needed as there was sufficient capacity within Surrey Highways to deliver the highways priorities.

·         That in addition to the highways safety improvement, the Council worked closely with Surrey Police on a comprehensive speed management strategy which ensured that speeding hot spots were carefully investigated and there were over ten average speed camera systems in Surrey - which was more than any other local authority in South East England - recent schemes included the A320 St Peter's way in Chertsey and the A31 near Hog's Back in Guildford. 

·         That some Local and Joint Committees were in need of a culture change, the Council did have a can-do attitude and was committed to keeping residents safe; noting that cycle training was provided to schools to around 16,000 young people in a typical year as well as pedestrian training, there were fifty school crossings near primary schools and around 12,000 young people annually took part in the Safe Drive Stay Alive Programme and there were thirty road safety outside school assessments.

·         Noted that vehicle activated signs were funded through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), using local money for local solutions and working with officers, residents and Local and Joint Committee chairmen was the best way.

·         Agreed with the direction of travel of the amendment regarding highways safety, however noted that work was already underway as highlighted by the Cabinet Member for Highways and he noted a recent meeting with Surrey Police concerning the Drive SMART programme.

·         That Members set the budget and its outcomes, whilst officers put in place what was needed to deliver those.

·         That the select committee system provided a constructive arena to scrutinise amendments in detail as opposed to the last-minute amendment to Council.

·         Noted the additional funding that was already in the proposed budget which would enable Local Committees to advance locally identified schemes through leveraging CIL funding and so more officers were not needed.

·         That at the recent informal Tandridge Local Committee the proposed budget was discussed including that as part of the budget setting process Local Committees across Surrey were being reviewed and extra funding provided.

·         Commented on the financial structure of proposal noting that the amendment proposed an expansion of the capital programme and use of the contingency reserves to fund the revenue element.

·         That the amendment’s proposed increased capital borrowing of £26 million amounted to a total cost of £40.7 million over the forty years assuming a lifetime interest rate of 1.5% to the Council.

·         That the contingency reserves was key to sustainable financial resilience to mitigate future risk and deal with unexpected pressures as local authorities in accordance with Section 25 of the Local Government Act 2003, were required to have an adequate level of reserves and so it was not prudent to erode that reserve level.

·         Could not support the amendment which relied on contingency reserves and had not gone through the select committee scrutiny process as the proposed budget and Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) had gone through countless challenge and scrutiny to ensure that it was affordable and financially resilient.

·         Noted that although Cabinet had approved the report formally closing down the Council’s successful finance improvement programme last June, the Council must not deter from the need to continually grow its financial resilience and sustainability.

·         That the amendment was a backwards step, it was not innovative and that it was not time for superfluous spending on building a new team when the Council had made progress towards a balanced and efficient budget through its Transformation Programme to face upcoming challenges.

·         That at times Local Committees could be frustrating especially for residents, the amendment would not change that but looking at policies and procedures would.      

·         Thanked the Cabinet Member for Highways for the additional money that Local and Joint Committees would receive for next year’s highways funding, the budget needed to be balanced and the amendment posed a problem for the finances of other services.

·         That extra money for road safety if available was welcomed and how it was spent was vital such as addressing insufficient funding for feasibility studies and delays to CIL boards which were problems faced by Local Committees.

·         Provided a local example of why the amendment should be passed as that extra money should be available for road safety schemes so that in one case a school could stop paying for a crossing attendant if a road crossing was upgraded.

·         That Local Committees had a shared budget and each Member had an allocated amount for highways to be spent how they chose noting an example of funding for dropped pavements for disabled people.

·         That it was a concern when a local borough council had not been supportive of when its Local Committee put in bids for CIL funding.  

·         Praised the work of a local borough council highways team and thanked the Cabinet Member for Highways for his local visits and assistance with making improvements to traffic flows and highways with support also from the Local Committee.

·         That all Members could provide examples of local initiatives where money could be spent on road safety improvements and highlighted that it was a question of priorities and balancing existing funding, Local Committees had more funding available to them than ever before.


The Leader of the Council spoke on the amendment, making the following points:


·         Noted disappointment that the amendment was not raised through the select committee system in order to give it proper consideration and scrutiny. 

·         The Council was investing in road safety putting more money into highways than it had done before and the budget had to balance with competing demands.


The Chairman asked Mr Botten, as proposer of the amendment to conclude the debate:


·      Refuted the disingenuous statements made against the amendment, pointing out that trying to change the budget through the select committee system was difficult and would welcome a discussion with the Leader on the practicalities of having a genuine debate and facilitating cross-party support.

·      That the amendment was not last-minute, noting that it was not a coincidence when that in response to it being submitted, the Cabinet Member for Highways sent out an email noting what extra investment the Council was making on roads.

·      That it was well-constructed through officer advice who recommended the purchase of officer time.

·      That the amendment was not an attempt at political grandstanding as it had been a continuous issue of concern, it was a genuine attempt to try to force change of policy to make it easier for Members to influence local decisions around road safety and other matters, it was an attempt to improve matters for Surrey residents.


The amendment was put to the vote with 13 Members voting For, 59 voting Against and 6 Abstentions.


Therefore the amendment was lost.


Returning to the to the original budget proposal and recommendations as published in the agenda:


Mr Jonathan Essex moved an amendment, presenting an alternative budget proposal (included in the supplementary agenda) with amended budget recommendations, which was formally seconded by Mr Robert Evans. This was:


(amended wording in bold and underlined)


2.    That it is the view of the Executive Director of Resources (Section 151 Officer), that the level of reserves is adequate to meet the Council’s needs for 2021/22. These reserves include the following amounts, (totalling £91.9m £91.3m) set aside specifically to provide financial resilience:


·         a General Fund Balance of £24.2m;

·         a budget contingency of £20.4m £19.8m with an estimated £33.4m brought forward;

·         a specific contingency for the impact of Covid-19 of £4.9m; and

·         a provision of £9m to meet risks in delivering the Dedicated Schools Grant – High Needs Block cost containment plan.


14.  The total £1.905 £1.917 billion proposed five-year Capital Programme (comprising £1,026.2m £1,026.8m of budget and £879.2m £890.5m pipeline) and approves the £184.9 £185.0 million capital budget in 2021/22 (Annex C).


In support of his amendment, Mr Essex made the following points:


·         Thanked officers for their help with the finances of the amendment.

·         Noted that it called on the Council to match its scale of ambition in property investment with scaling up its efforts to further decarbonise Surrey through the proposed Surrey Decarbonisation Fund linking in the rest of the public sector including schools, NHS Trusts and it businesses as well as residents to inspire them to join the Council in tackling the biggest challenge of our lifetime.

·         That it contained three modest transport proposals concerning the full electrification of the Council’s vehicle fleet, the employment of dedicated cycle route planners and for more road safety and school travel officers to ensure safe routes to schools and support for twenty miles per hour low speed and traffic neighbourhoods across Surrey.

·         That the building proposals included the need for the Council to escalate its ambition to retrofit all of its own buildings quickly through a four-fold increase in the revolving fund budget; and called for an energy retrofit and renewable energy in all of Surrey’s approximately four hundred schools to line up the contracts and procurement needed within thirty months.

·         That there were many other areas of funding that could be changed in the budget but that none of those should overshadow the opportunity for the Council and county to rapidly reduce its environmental impact and do so in ways that leaves no one behind, acting as a beacon for transformation in climate change.


The amendment was formally seconded by Mr Robert Evans, who reserved the right to speak.


Mr John O’Reilly moved a proposal, which was formally seconded by Mr Saj Hussain. The proposal was as follows:


That Mr Essex’s alternative budget proposal with amended budget recommendations be referred to the Communities, Environment and Highways Select Committee for consideration.


In speaking to his proposal Mr John O’Reilly:


·         Commended the proposer of the amendment as a dynamic member of the Communities, Environment and Highways Select Committee.

·         Agreed with previous speakers that analysing budget proposals via the select committee system needed to be improved, although it provided a better opportunity to dedicate time and scrutinise proposals in more detail than was possible at the Council meeting.

·         That £105 million of capital pipeline funding as discussed by the Cabinet was not fully itemised, money was available to be allocated.






Nine Members made the following points on Mr O’Reilly’s proposal:


·         Supported the proposal and elaborated on the £105 million of capital pipeline funding which was available for the Greener Future Programme, noting that it sat within the larger pipeline of £779 million.

·         That the £105 million was for placeholders or indicative amounts for projects that had not yet been fully worked up and for viable projects to come forward, including £12 million for LCWIPs, £5 million for the Council’s renewable energy installation, £2.5 million for the revolving zero carbon investment fund.

·         Questioned the mechanism for the carbon reduction in schools, where the investment would be going in and the schools would receive the benefit of that.

·         That it was not prudent to use contingent reserve for the budget proposals.

·         Agreed that schools could be a beacon for our communities concerning energy savings, however as the savings would fall within schools’ own delegated budgets the Council would need to look at reaching an agreement with each school which could not be considered today and so favoured the referral to the Select Committee.

·         That in approving the Mr Essex’s amendment it would then automatically have to be as a modification to the budget proposal and so would have to be referred back to the Cabinet and so instead supported the amendment to refer it directly to the Select Committee.

·         Supported the proposal to refer the issues within the amendment to the Select Committee as it was important that it was looked at alongside the Council’s current schemes and funding in a holistic way with an extra £500,000 added to the cycle training programme for young people, £50 million for electric and hydrogen buses, the LCWIPs programme in Reigate and Banstead would be extended to Elmbridge, Runnymede and Spelthorne, the Government’s Active Travel Fund and an extra one hundred schemes that Council planned on funding through the increased highways budget.

·         That there was nothing wrong with the amendment which had been backed up by officers and so it should be supported, it was unnecessary and problematic that the debates on motions and amendments at Council followed political party lines.

·         Was supportive of both the amendment and the proposal to refer it to the Select Committee which would consider the matter in detail noting its leading role on climate change through the Surrey’s Greener Future Task Group, so long as it was not an attempt to kick the can down the road.

·         Noted that it was a shame that the proposer of the amendment did not engage with the Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change or followed due process to take the budget proposals to the Select Committee for consideration.

·         The amendment as it was presented was confusing such as in relation to figures on electric vehicles. The Select Committee would be able to fully explore and challenge the issues raised in more detail and so supported its referral.

·         That the amendment was complex and so supported the referral to the Select Committee as question could be asked and discussed in conjunction with officers and Cabinet Members.


As seconder to Mr Essex’s amendment, Mr R Evans made the following points:


·           Hoped that the proposal to refer the issues within the amendment to the Select Committee was not about taking the budget proposals apart but would ensure serious consideration and give it the credit it deserved.

·           Echoed that Leader’s statement where he referred to doing what was most important for residents and the budget amendment was in line with residents’ concerns and priorities such as safer roads and cycle routes and parents wanted safer and less congested school routes.

·           That the amendment was well planned and properly costed with positive officer input.

·           That the amendment puts Surrey at the forefront on decarbonisation which would be a Government priority in the months and years ahead.


The Leader of the Council spoke on Mr Essex’s amendment, making the following points:


·         Agreed with a previous comment on the Council’s debates going down party political lines and that was exactly why such proposals should be debated at the cross-party Select Committee in more detail.

·         Reminded Members that over ten percent of the Council’s budget or £105 million capital pipeline funding was allocated for the Greener Future Programme which provided an opportunity for such proposals once fully discussed through the select committee route with recommendations to Cabinet.  


The Chairman asked Mr Essex, as proposer of the amendment to conclude the debate:


·         Thanked all for the positive responses and anticipated that the budget proposals would be referred to the Select Committee for due consideration.

·         Noted that going forward the planned discussion on the climate action plan and £105 million capital pipeline would provide a timely opportunity to consider the budget proposals going forward.

·         Clarified that the price on the figures concerning electric vehicles came directly the Council’s Highways department, noting that figures were less good as discounts were available for personal purchase of a car.

·         That non-maintained schools typically operated by academies or the diocese were no longer recognised on the Council’s balance due to long-lease arrangements, so did not have an incentive to invest in renewable energy despite eligibility to go to the Government for the Salix fund low interest loans.


The Chairman then requested that the amendment be put to a vote and that Members were to vote either for the amendment or against the amendment but on the understanding that the issues would be referred to the relevant select committee to consider.


The amendment was put to the vote with 15 Members voting For, 62 voting Against and 1 Abstention.


Therefore the amendment was lost and would be referred to the Communities, Environment and Highways Select Committee.


Returning to the original budget proposal and recommendations as published in the agenda, Fourteen Members spoke on it:


·         Thanked the leader for his clear position on what the budget set out to achieve, praising the progress of the Council’s Transformation Programme and delivery of £75 million a year in efficiencies creating better and more accessible services for residents.

·         Refuted the notion that there was not enough money for the Family Resilience and Corporate Parenting transformation programmes. The Council had in the past been a high spender on children’s social care with poor outcomes. The capital budget sought to reverse that by supporting families through greater early intervention and providing more social care places to children including SEND children which would help keep children safe within their family.

·         Refuted the alleged secret section of the budget with hidden charges in point 34 in the Equality Impact Assessment as there were key lines of enquiry for 2021/22 opportunities for finding a range of different options of where the Council would meet its efficiency targets and less than 2.5% of the Council’s total efficiencies target was about charging - the Council sought to reduce the number of Section 20 agreements of the Children Act 1989, noting the small possibility of charging for bed and board.

·         That coronavirus provided a large uncertainty to the budget, that although the Government had provided immediate help, the knock-on effects to residents and society from the financial strain would be long felt.

·         Positively noted the balanced budget including contingency funding and reserves that had been built up over the last two years.

·         That it was the quality of the £41 million budget reductions and whether they were deliverable that mattered as in relation to the Red-Amber-Green (RAG) ratings only £2 million were rated green and £12mn were rated red; the majority of reductions was not from the transformation programmes as £26 million was from policy approaches or operational savings.

·         Noted that ASC was an area of concern, although the Council had been successful in making savings through strength based commissioning, it was doubtful that a further £4.4 million could be made in relation to care packages and care home charges and was worrying that there were cuts in mental health.

·         Noted that Children, Families, Lifelong Learning and Culture was an area of concern as of the £21 million of savings identified over half were rated as red. The £7.6 million of pressures due to the expected impact of Covid-19 on Looked After Children would be offset through savings using work spreading and an increased staff vacancy factor which was unacceptable.

·         Noted that the £3 million in savings in SEND transport was a concern as well as the £9 million in reserve for cost containment within SEND which was a challenge for the future.  

·         That last year’s budget and the 2021/22 budget combined were increasing Council Tax by 6.5% or three times the rate of inflation which the Council should bear in mind when it considered its residents.

·         That it was challenging to deliver SEND services within the DSG High Needs Block as it was a demand led service and the Council had a statutory obligation to deliver those services so had to contributed money to an offsetting reserve - with financial pressure to be reduced via the transformation programme.

·         As opposed to the use of reserves and earmarked savings, early intervention was key so that problems could be addressed before they affected statutory Education, Health and Care Plan; noting the Council’s Early Intervention Funding which had provided over two hundred and fifty mainstream schools and settings with funding for early support for over six hundred children.

·         That a Learners Single Point of Access (L-SPA) had been set up in which parents and school professionals could ring five days a week to get access to early intervention and since July 2020 there had been four thousand callers.

·         That all education settings had access to the graduated response team as well as access to professional expertise through the special needs coordinators at schools alongside early years advisers.

·         Noting the early intervention initiatives above, refuted the suggestion of failed inspections of SEND services as the opposite was true. In the 2016 inspection there were five areas to improve, a revisit by Department for Education and NHS colleagues in May 2019 left one area of focus and that was about improving the rates of absence and the exclusion of children with SEND in our mainstream schools. The Department for Education and the NHS signed off on progress against the Accelerated Programme Plan in their December visit and so there was no longer a need to continue formal monitoring on that six-monthly progress review.

·         Agreed that a longer term and more sustainable solution was needed for the funding of ASC, noting that the implementation of the ASC transformation programme had already delivered many financial benefits and improved outcomes for residents.

·         That ASC’s ambitious program to deliver over seven hundred units of extra care and supported living units was underway demonstrating the Council's commitment to improving services for its most vulnerable residents.

·         That the Council’s relationship with its providers was better than ever, that integration plans between health and adult social care were well underway and ASC had a clear and strong commitment to improve mental health services alongside partner organisations.

·         That ASC had clear plans to make further improvements and bring about further benefits for residents, ensuring that nobody was left behind.

·         Thanked the Leader, Cabinet and officers that had put the budget together including the focus on supporting the countryside with £4 million set aside over the next four years to be invested in public rights of way and additional sums to be invested in access to the countryside which during the pandemic was important for wellbeing.

·         Welcomed the Accommodation with Care and Support programme and development of new care settings in the community to enable a shift away from residential care however noted past history in which six Surrey owned residential care homes were closed in 2017, noting the wasted resource of empty sites.

·         That despite those six sites being subsequently repurposed to fulfil extra care housing and inclusion in the Council’s joint venture programme with Places for People, no building had taken place or contractors finalised noting a local example of Pond Meadow in Guildford. The Council should apologise to residents for the delays and wasted money as in that time they could have been providing homes for people who needed them.

·         That ASC and the Adults and Health Select Committee were discussing the provision of residential care homes and extra care, the budget was driven forward through the transformation programmes to improve outcomes with regards to strength-based strategies towards independent living.

·         That prevention and early intervention concerning mental health were key in ASC and Children’s Services and the Adults and Health Select Committee was in the process of trying to lobby the Government for more money for mental health and the new GP Integrated Mental Health Service (GPimhs) solution was being rolled out in conjunction with Surry Heartlands Health and Care Partnership.

·         Noted that efficiencies across the public sector were only a result of budgets being planned to be greater than were actually needed.

·         Regarding elderly services, welcomed the extra care houses and other disabled houses that were planned and reminded the Council that over a fifteen year period he and another Member persuaded the Council to build those seven units and hoped that building on the planned houses commenced quickly.

·         That on school building efficiency, schools had £40 million in funding which they would store and use throughout the year on their buildings and their pupils, they did not need further money as noted in the second amendment.

·         Congratulated the Leader on the £20 million a year for Your Fund Surrey as well as the allocation of £500,000 to the Community Foundation for Surrey - although noted difficulty in their approval for funding.

·         Noted that the £5,000 figure for the MembersCommunity Allocation funding for 2020/21 which had dropped significantly from previous years, was low and should be at a different level so that Members could use it to achieve more in their communities.

·         Responded to a previous Member’s comment on the RAG ratings concerning efficiencies, adding that the vast majority of those were red and that was a considerable concern particularly with regards to SEND and the DSG High Needs Block.

·         That efficiencies were in fact cuts or savings and the planned £100 million in efficiencies in the next three or four years was a worry, noting the scale of past inefficiencies.

·         That the cuts to Youth Services made last year by Council was a serious mistake with knock-on effects locally and such services were vital particularly during the pandemic in relation to mental health support.  

·         Raised concerns about the about the issue in the budget of the mental health for young people as it appeared to be business as usual in budget concerning mental health whereas it was a crisis exacerbated by the pandemic, noting that over one thousand young people on the Guildford CAMHS waiting list and queried the new provider that would take over from April.

·         Highlighted the sheer scale of investment in SFRS within the budget, noting that a complete needs assessment had been carried out led by SFRS and supported by the Finance and Property teams; noting the ambitious program for the re-provision of training facilities, the vehicle replacement program, fire station improvements, the series of equipment replacement programs to support teams in their community work to generate better outcomes for residents, improvements to staffs’ wellbeing as well as thermal imaging cameras and gas detection equipment.

·         Thanked the Leader, Cabinet Members and officers for their hard work in transforming the Council over the last few years and most recently despite Covid-19. Transformation and efficiencies were not cuts but ensured the best value for money for services such as through joint health integration commissioning and in ASC, the progress of the Council’s transformation programmes was continually evidenced in Cabinet reports

·         Contrary to a previous Member comment on the Community Foundation for Surrey, he welcomed the Council’s extra funding to it as it had carried out an incredible amount of work over the last year within Surrey’s communities by helping out with the Covid-19 Community Relief Programme. The Community Foundation for Surrey had committed to try to fund match the Council’s £500,000, it was going to help with Your Fund Surrey and hopefully find revenue and provide charitable donations to groups as the Council could only provide capital. Partnerships were incredibly important and the Council’s further funding demonstrated its commitment to that.


The Leader of the Council made the following comments in response:


·         Agreed with previous comments that he would like to see long-term funding from the Government to local authorities including ASC and that the Council continued to lobby for.

·         Disagreed with the references to the litany of historical issues as it was distracting to the debate and work that was currently underway by Council and that it planned to undertake in the next year.

·         That the Council took its responsibilities seriously, it was vital that Members dealt with the facts and encouraged Members to read committee reports as well as external reports such as the Ofsted reports and the HMICFRS reports on SFRS that clearly demonstrated the significant improvements made by the Council through the implementation of the Transformation Programme. 

·         Acknowledged that the Council could always improve, there would never be a moment where the Council could be self-satisfied due to the ever-changing complex needs of residents.

·         That it was right that the Council recruited the best possible staff it could and paid a good salary adding that the number of FTE equivalent personnel employed by the Council had decreased by around 500 in the last four years.

·         That there were some challenges around the Council’s commercial property investments as there were in most other councils and decisions were transparent.

·         That the Council needed to invest in its staffs’ working environments, noting the roll out of the Agile Organisation Programme and hubs for staff.

·         Agreed that there had been excellent partnership working through the pandemic and was confident that it would continue.

·         That the Council did have a can-do culture and attitude. 

·         That the unitary authority status initiative was government led and at the Government’s request the Council was no longer pursuing that discussion. The initial exploration of the initiative highlighted the need for greater efficiency in local government as noted in the KPMG report and particularly in borough and district councils.

·         That there were no hidden charges in the budget, all policy changes proposed within the Council went through the select committee process first - praising the detailed scrutiny process - before it went to Cabinet.

·         Recognised the frustrations expressed in relation to the management of the Council’s commercial property portfolio including the delays, noting that within the next four to six weeks a complete list of the Council’s vacant and surplus properties and a plan to address those would be drawn up. The Council was moving forward with the rationalisation of its property estate, noting the sale of County Hall and exit.

·         Agreed with the importance of the transformation programmes and the progress made.

·         Agreed that mental health was an area that needed further investment, noting the £400,000 net increase in the budget for mental health services. Mental health was a responsibility not just for the Council to deliver but also through the health system and that a Mental Health Partnership Board composed of key organisations would help drive forward the issue for both children and adolescents.

·         Noted the need for further funding to improve and increase the rollout of prevention and early intervention.

·         That the CAMHS waiting list would be cleared by April, so that the new alliance led by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust would not inherit a backlog.

·         Welcomed the comments in support of funding for the countryside.

·         Regarding extra care housing, noted that the Council had written to Guildford Borough Council requesting the release of a restrictive covenant that it had over the Pond Meadow site at no cost to residents, which would be followed up through their Cabinet. 

·         That the Council had committed to build 700 extra care and supported living units to encourage people to live independently and have less reliance upon care packages. Sites had been identified and approved by Cabinet.

·         Regarding the RAG ratings that it was no surprise that some of the efficiency or transformation programmes had been delayed and so were rated red, work was underway and would continue at speed in the future following the pandemic.

·         That the Council had committed funding to continue with the specialist Youth Services and was looking to other partners to help with the provision of a good quality universal service.

·         That it was right that the budget was a political choice reflecting the political majority whose role it was to invest in the county’s residents and communities, to support vulnerable residents and to look at ways to invest in improving services to ensure the financial stability of the Council in conjunction with its partners.

·         Reassured residents that the Council was there to look after their interests and the budget did that, so asked all Members to support the recommendations.


After the debate the Chairman called the recommendations, which included the council tax precept proposals, and a recorded vote was taken.


The following Members voted for it:


Mrs Angell, Ms Azad, Mr Bennison, Mrs Bowes, Mrs Bramhall, Mr Brett-Warburton, Mr Carasco, Mrs Clack, Mrs Curran, Mr Deach, Mr Tim Evans, Mr Few, Mr Furey, Mr Furniss, Mr Gardner, Mr Goodman, Miss Griffiths, Dr Grant-Duff, Mr Gulati, Mr Hall, Mrs Hammond, Mr Harmer, Mr Harris, Mr Hawkins, Miss Heath, Mr Hussain, Mrs Iles, Mr Islam, Mr Kemp, Mr Knight, Rachael I Lake, Mrs Lay, Mrs Lewis, Mr McIntosh, Mr Mallett, Mr Mansfield, Mr Martin, Mrs Mooney, Ms Morley, Mrs Moseley, Mrs Mountain, Mrs Muir, Mr Nuti, Mr Oliver, Mr O’Reilly, Dr Povey, Mr Ramsdale, Mrs Rush, Mr Samuels, Mrs Steeds, Dr Szanto, Mr Taylor, Ms Thomson, Mrs Thorn, Ms Turner-Stewart, Mr Walsh, Mr Witham, Mrs Young.


The following Members voted against it:


Mr Beckett, Mr Botten, Mr Cooksey, Mr Essex, Mr Robert Evans, Mr Forster, Mr Goodwin, Mrs Goodwin, Mr Harrison, Mr Kington, Mr MacLeod, Mrs Mason, Mrs Rivers, Mr Spence, Mr Townsend, Mrs Watson, Mrs White.


The following Members abstained:


Mrs Barton, Miss Boote, Mr Darby.


Therefore, it was:




That Council noted the following important features of the revenue and capital budget, and in line with Section 25 of the Local Government Act 2003:

1.      The Executive Director of Resources’ (Section 151 Officer) conclusion that estimates included in the Final Budget Report and Medium-Term Financial Strategy are sufficiently robust in setting the budget for 2021/22; and

2.      That it is the view of the Executive Director of Resources (Section 151 Officer), that the level of reserves is adequate to meet the Council’s needs for 2021/22. These reserves include the following amounts, (totalling £91.9m) set aside specifically to provide financial resilience:

·           a General Fund Balance of £24.2m;

·           a budget contingency of £20.4m with an estimated £33.4m brought forward;

·           a specific contingency for the impact of Covid-19 of £4.9m; and

·           a provision of £9m to meet risks in delivering the Dedicated Schools Grant – High Needs Block cost containment plan.

         Proposed budget: That the following Revenue and Capital budget decisions be approved:

3.    The net revenue budget requirement be set at £1,003.6 million (net cost of services after service specific government grants) for 2021/22 (Annex B), subject to confirmation of the Final Local Government Financial Settlement;

4.    The total Council Tax funding requirement be set at £777.6 million for 2021/22.  This is an increase of 2.49%, made up of an increase in the level of core Council Tax of 1.99% to cover core Council services and an increase of 0.5% in the precept proposed by Central Government to cover the growing cost of Adult Social Care (Annex E);

5.    Noted that for the purpose of section 52ZB of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, the Council formally determines that the increase in core Council Tax is not such as to trigger a referendum (i.e. not greater than 2%);

6.    Set the Surrey County Council precept for Band D Council Tax at £1,549.08, which represents a 2.49% uplift. This is a rise of £0.72 a week from the 2020/21 precept of £1,511.46. This includes £139.01 for the Adult Social Care precept, which has increased by £7.55.

7.      Agreed to maintain the Council Tax rate set after the Final Local Government Finance Settlement;

8.      The Council Tax for each category of dwelling as set out in the table below:


9.      The payment for each billing authority, including any balances on the Collection Fund, as set out in Annex E;

10.   Delegated powers to the Leader and Executive Director of Resources (Section 151 Officer) to finalise budget proposals and recommendations to County Council, updated to take into account new information in the Final Local Government Finance Settlement;

11.   The Flexible Use of Capital Receipts Strategy for 2021/22 to meet the statutory guidelines for the use of such receipts to fund transformation and the move back into the County (Annex F);

12.   The Total Schools Budget of £537.3 million to meet the Council’s statutory requirement on schools funding;

13.   The overall indicative Budget Envelopes for Executive Directorates and individual services for the 2021/22 budget (Annex B); and

14.   The total £1.905 billion proposed five-year Capital Programme (comprising £1,026.2m of budget and £879.2m pipeline) and approves the £184.9 million capital budget in 2021/22 (Annex C).

Capital and Investment Strategies: That the following be approved:


15.  The Capital and Investment Strategy (Annex G), which provides an overview of how risks associated with capital expenditure, financing, treasury and commercial investments will be managed as well as how they contribute towards the delivery of services; and

16.  The policy for making a prudent level of revenue provision for the repayment of debt (the Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) Policy) (Annex I).


The meeting was adjourned for a short comfort break at 12.58pm


The meeting recommenced at 13.11pm


Supporting documents: