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 7 July 2021).
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 twenty-two questions had been received. The questions and replies were published in the supplementary agenda on 12 July 2021.
A number of supplementary questions were asked and a summary of the main points is set out below.
The Chair explained that in light of the unique set-up of the meeting due to Covid-19, the supplementary questions were to be grouped by the relevant Cabinet Member who would respond to all the supplementaries together:
MARK NUTI, CABINET MEMBER FOR COMMUNITIES
(Q5) Catherine Powell askedwhether the Cabinet Member could provide the Council with a map of the applications for Your Fund Surrey (YFS) overlaid on a colour-coded map of the Lower layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs)to highlight the deprived areas at greatest risk of being left behind, so intervention can be targeted.
She further asked whether the Cabinet Member could provide a list of all of the applications that had been made to YFS including an additional column on the Index of Multiple Deprivation.
In response the Cabinet Member noted that he would look to get the requested information and explained that YFS was not designated specifically for deprived areasbut for communities as a whole recognising that some areas required more help and services than others.
He urged Members to talk to their communities and to help them with projects that would benefit their areas. There were at present over one hundred and forty applications to the YFS website, a low number in respect of the aim of YFS to get communities involved. Whilst it was too early to provide data with the funding process to start later in the month, over the next year the applications would be monitored and areas would be identified where greater resources were needed to bring forward projects.
(Q8) Robert Evans noted that even before the last round of cuts to the SFRS under the Making Surrey Safer Plan, Home Office statistics showed that Surrey had seen the sharpest rise in the number of deaths in house fires. He asked the Cabinet Member whether it was the case that there were no plans to restore the number for firefighters in Surrey or if he could rule out further cuts in the numbers over the next few years.
In response, the Cabinet Member explained that there were more firefighters coming through with a passing out ceremony taking place on 25 July.The combination of more firefighters, ensuring a service fit for purpose, utilising new and effective technology meant that Surrey was safe and was getting safer daily, he reassured Members and residents that the SFRS protected Surrey and prevented fires from happening.
Robert King asked whether the Cabinet Member could rule out further closures to fire stations across the county in the future.
The Cabinet Member explained that since the 2018 report which stated that SFRS was not fit for purpose, SFRS over the past eighteen months had been revamped but noted that there was more work to do. He emphasised that thenumber of fire stations was irrelevant, what mattered was the safety of Surrey’s residentswith fire appliances and engines constantly moved to high risk areas.
MATT FURNISS, CABINET MEMBER FOR TRANSPORT AND INFRASTRUCTURE
(Q1) Jonathan Hulley welcomed the Cabinet’s decision to promote the HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle) Watch scheme and welcomed the recent election of Lisa Townsend as the new Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey (PCC). He asked the Cabinet Member what steps he intended to take to ensure that the PCC and Surrey Police would provide the operational support needed to ensure that the scheme was a success initially in the pilot areas and then across Surrey.
In response, the Cabinet Member welcomed the election of the new PCC and noted the work between the Highways Service and Surrey Police, noting the Governmentannouncement on local authorities outside of London able to levy fines on moving traffic offences from the autumn. He noted the collaborative work on Drive SMART, operational support from Surrey Police including their powers to fine repeat offenders; the additional powers granted from the Government would allow the Highways Service to a greater role on enforcement.
Robert King asked whether the Cabinet Member would commit to reviewing the diversionary routes - many through residential areas, noting speeding incidents - for the mandatory HGV routes for when the M25 was closed. He asked whether he would consider a review with Highways England and the provision of additional safety measures.
The Cabinet Member noted that he would raise the issue on the HGV diversion routes in relation to the closure of the M25 again with Highways England. He noted that concerns about speeding should be raised with Surrey Police, or to liaise with him regarding establishing a local HGV Watch.
(Q4) Nick Darby had no supplementary question.
Chris Townsend responded to the Leader’s earlier comment by noting that answering highways queries from residents was part of Members’ duty. Referring to the proposed Highways reorganisation he noted dissatisfaction with the response given at the Cabinet Member for Transport and Infrastructure Decisions,he asked the Cabinet Member to explain how the reorganisation would improve the service delivered to residents and how the increased centralised structure would improve that.
In response, the Cabinet Member explained that following the conclusion of the staff consultation, the proposals would be shared with Members and he emphasised that the purpose of the restructuring was to increase the engagement, quality, capacity and consistency of all the Highways services provided to Members and residents.
In a later comment the Leader clarified that Members unfortunately had to spend a substantial amount of time dealing with residents’ highways issues, noting that he hoped the Highways reorganisation and additional funding would deliver the required improvements.
(Q7) Lance Spencer noted that in the past two months he had received fifty pieces of casework the majority related to Active Travel and asked whether the Cabinet Member would consider setting up a fund for Active Travel similar to that of YFS, in order to provide additional capital funds for projects that would encourage Active Travel to reduce car journeys in line with the Surrey Transport Plan - LTP4 and Surrey’s Greener Future action plans.
In response, the Cabinet Member noted the existing similar website for the Active Travel Fund, in which a significant number of suggestions had been received from residents for improvements. He explained that the Government awarded Surrey just under £6.5 million in the second round of Active Travel funding and Surrey’s bid for a third round was underway and would look to include what additional financial measures would be required to take forward one hundred of the schemes proposed by Surrey’s residents.
Jonathan Essex asked the Cabinet Member whether he could confirm that the new highways specification would be updated when the new Future Highways contract was set so that local failures such as the collapse of speed humps could be included as defects. He further suggested the strengthening of the contract by having an early intervention approach addressing issues such as the delay of filling potholes until they were at least forty millimetres deep undermining road integrity and increasing the need for re-surfacing; and asked if it was possible to separate the contract for pothole filling.
In response, the Cabinet Member explained that the Future Highways contract was in its final stage with information on bidders included in his Cabinet Member Briefing. He noted that the Highways Service was constantly reviewing how improvements could be made, policies were set by the Highways Service who sought to achieve best value for money for Surrey’s residents and not by the contractor. He noted that the forty millimetre threshold for pothole filling was a national average for highway authorities across the UK and was one of reasons that Surrey installed artificial intelligence (AI) cameras in all highways vehicles so it could identify potholes before they reached that depth. He did not agree with the suggestion of separating funding out for particular elements.
(Q9) Catherine Baart noted that she had asked specifically for a list of twenty miles per hour speed limit zones and dates proposed to the Local Committees and dates when the first signs went up and requested a written response providing that detail.
In response, the Cabinet Member noted that it was important to set out the most recent twenty miles per hour speed limit schemes approved by Surrey, he noted that he would provide the list to all Members of the ten most recent twenty miles per hour speed limit zones and the dates introduced.
(Q18) Robert Evans noted the need for greater co-operation such as through joint initiatives or bodies with London Boroughs bordering Surrey such as Hounslow, Hillingdon and Slough. Noting the re-election of Sadiq Khan as the Mayor of London, he asked whether the Cabinet Member thought the Council should have better formal links with the Mayor of London and Member-to-Member links with the Greater London Assembly (GLA).
In response, the Cabinet Member noted the further difficult discussions going forward with the Mayor of London and the GLA on the possible Greater London Boundary Charge. The Highways Service would look to foster better relations with the Mayor of London and GLA, but noted disappointment that announcements were often made without Surrey being briefed.
(Q20) Jonathan Essex understood that from the response it meant that there would be an additional £3 million in funding to meet the backlog of forty-nine out of seventy-eight school safety measures outstanding since 2014 concerning theRoad Safety Outside Schools policy, and asked whether the Cabinet Member for Transport and Infrastructure could confirm when that £3 million would be available to meet the backlog. He noted that the report explained that there would be an additional twenty-one assessments scheduled and in addition to the £3 million one-off funding to address the backlog, whether the Cabinet Member would propose additional capital funding to ensure that when measures came up for school safety audits they would be responded to without delay.
In response, theCabinet Member noted that it was his intention to remove the capital funding stream for school safety from the Local Committees and to provide a dedicated fund to the school safety team so it could use the funding without competing with other local requests received through the Local Committees.
CLARE CURRAN, CABINET MEMBER FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
(Q6) Fiona White noted that the response highlighted the substantial funding cuts to the Children’s Service and asked the Cabinet Member for Children and Families whether she agreed that children’s futures must be a priority and that early intervention was key for families and children, in turn placing less strain on public funding. She asked the Cabinet Member whether she reviewed the high workload of family support workers who had limited time available for each family.
In response, the Cabinet Member stressed that early intervention and preventionwere fundamental principles across the work of the Children’s Service, supported by increased funding and resources.She noted that the Service had worked to build an effective Early Help network. Detailed information about the number of families who approached the system and were stepped up and down from statutory services as well as on the caseloads of all staff were regularly monitored.
George Potter noted that the responses to parts b) and c) of the question did not answer the points raised, part b) asked about the measurement of progress in achieving the effective provision of services through the Family Centre models following the closure of Children’s Centres. Part c)asked for the steps taken to assess the impact of the withdrawal of support through the Children’s Centres. He noted a closure in a Children’s Centre adjacent to his division which meant an hour journey to the nearest Family Centre.
He asked to have qualitative and quantitative data on whether the goal of effective service provision had been achieved from the move to the Family Centre model and whether families and children in need had been left behind or not.
In response, the Cabinet Member explained that the work of Family Centres was targetedto those families most in need of those services, families who did not meet the criteria for Early Help were sign-posted to universal services in communities.She echoed the comment in the Leader’s Statement about compassionate communities and local networks of support.She noted that Family Centres worked on the basis of outreach and for the Member to liaise with her on a specific example.
(Q10) John Robini asked the Cabinet Member whether there would be a cohesive children’s and families plan across the county, as it appeared that some communities like his division - particularly those disadvantaged - did not have the universal models in place.
In response, the Cabinet Member noted the hard work of the commissioning team to ensure a county-wide provision of youth services which it monitored closely. She noted that in addition to the commissioning of universal services in buildings owned by the Council, in every Borough and District there were other local providers of youth work, highlighting the Leatherhead Youth Project and Bookham Youth Project.
(Q11) Jonathan Essex asked the Cabinet Member whether the review of the Surrey County Council youth estate in the autumn would include the estate locations where Community, Voluntary and Faith Sector (CVFS) organisations were not using Council buildings in order to see if a new dedicated facility for youth work was required and if not the case he queried how the gap in the provision of universal youth work by CVFS organisations and others could be closed in order to prevent a postcode lottery.
In response, the Cabinet Member explained within the review of the youth estate there would be a detailed review of the usage of the buildings and the provision across the county by providers including the third sector. She invited all Members who knew of local youth work provision by other external providers in their divisions to be involved in that review.
(Q22) Jonathan Essex asked whether the Cabinet Member could confirm who the Council was contracting the Family Centres to, when the contract would run to and how the contract was monitored.
In response, the Cabinet Member explained that she would provide written answers on the above in relation to the contracts, reiterating that the all the work in the Family Centres was closely monitored, quarterly at the level of individual Family Centres and monthly across the Children’s Service.
Lance Spencer noted that it was clear that the closure of the Sure Start centres would lead to an increase in demand for mental health services, he asked the Cabinet Member whether the Cabinet Member could say how long on average and what the maximum time was for children have to wait to get an assessment through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and whether those times had increased since those closures.
In response, the Cabinet Member disagreed that the closure of any Sure Start centres would have impacted on the emotional health and wellbeing of children, as those centres were for young families. Provision for youth emotional health and wellbeing support was delivered through Youth Havens, youth workers and schools as well as early intervention and prevention support through the new I-Thrive model in operation since April. She noted that she would provide a written response containing the details of waiting times and any historic delays regarding CAMHS assessments.
MARISA HEATH, CABINET MEMBER FOR ENVIRONMENT
(Q2) Jeremy Webster welcomed the recent arrangements set out in the response allowing pedestrian access at certain times and asked the Cabinet Member that once Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed whether the Caterham Community Recycling Centre (CRC) and other similar CRCs would return to mixed vehicular and pedestrian access in normal hours.
In response, the Cabinet Member explained that the aim would be to return to pre-Covid-19 hours and access, noting the importance of encouraging people to access the CRCs. That in the next couple of months she would be working to ensure that pedestrian access could be done safely through a pedestrian gateway and would keep the Member informed.
(Q12) Trefor Hogg noted that as the Chair of Surrey Tree Warden Network charity, he asked what was being done regarding trees - particularly street trees. He praised the first-year achievement of the planting of nearly a quarter of a million trees and asked the Cabinet Member how many trees were expected to be planted in 2021 and how voluntary organisations would be helped to participate in the effort.
In response, the Cabinet Member suggested that she and the Member have a separate meeting to address the above points raised.She explained that Surrey’s New Tree Strategy which included the planting of 1.2 million trees by 2030 would be reviewed to consider how trees were managed across the county and Surrey’s highways, ensuring that as many trees as possible would be protected.
TIM OLIVER, LEADER OF THE COUNCIL
(Q3) Eber Kington noted that he would continue to ask questions on the issue of highly paid directors as it was a concern of his residents. Unsatisfied with the written response, he asked the Leader to provide a written answer to part II. of his question concerning the Council’s future plans for its workforce.
In response, the Leader using the example of Epsom and Ewell Borough Council, assumed an average of two or in some cases three senior officers earning above £100,000 across all of Surrey’s Borough and District Councils, which equated to twenty-four compared to twenty-six officers in Surrey County Council earning above £100,000. Across a population of 1.2 million residents and a £1 billion budget, that was not disproportionate.He highlighted that there was full transparency on the publication of senior salaries, as those were published in the Statement of Accounts.
The Leader noted that part II. of the question had been answered in his written response referring to the third paragraph which stated that the only planned recruitment to PS18 was for the permanent appointment to the Executive Director - Customers and Communities.
Under SO 16.1 (c) Eber Kington stated that his question did not relate to the transparency concerning senior officer salaries, but the rising number of officers with salaries over £100,000.
NATALIE BRAMHALL, CABINET MEMBER FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND PROPERTY
(Q21) Catherine Baart asked the Cabinet Member whether an officer was working to a deadline for the delivery plan - regarding the Woodhatch Place travel plan - which would be delivered to the Cabinet Member.
In response, the Cabinet Member explained that an officer was working to a deadline and she would share the delivery plan once received.
Cabinet Member Briefings: these were also published in the supplementary agenda on 12 July 2021.
There were no questions asked by Members.