The Leader to make a statement.
There will be an opportunity for Members to ask questions and/or make comments.
George Potter arrived at 10.05 am.
The Leader of the Council made a detailed statement. A copy of the statement is attached as Appendix A.
Members raised the following topics:
· Referring to the Surrey Pay Policy Statement 2022/2023 and in light of the cost-of-living crisis,welcomed the percentage increase to be granted to the Council’s staff on the lower end of the pay scale.
· Despite the Council’s recent contact with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), noted concern by the lack of any increase in over ten years in the 45p per mile travel allowance and noted that there seemed to be an unwillingness to argue for the urgent changes needed.
· Welcomed the announcement of early engagement with Members on the 2023/24 budget, however further detail on the Council’s pressures and efficiencies and detail from the Government on the adult social care costs remained unclear.
· That whilst the Local and Joint Committees would be discontinued, the detail on their replacement had yet to be agreed.
· Welcomed the increase in Member’s allocation for highways for their division, however noted that the changes were confusing.
· Understood the need to review Home to School Transport, however noted disappointment in the recent delays and the delay in Member involvement concerning the M25 junction 10/A3 Wisley Interchange work.
· Welcomed the recent email from the Cabinet Member concerning the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) timing, however noted that Surrey’s residents faced being left behind.
· Regarding the recent water damage at Quadrant Court, queried whether the Council should sell the building or stay, queried whether it was an example of neglected repairs over the last fifteen years; further scrutiny was needed concerning the Agile Office Programme.
· Noted the significant resident opposition concerning the Reigate Priory Junior School and delay of at least one year for the move.
· Queried the difference in cost between the purchase of Woodhatch Place and the sale of County Hall.
· Noted the repair delays and that all children's homes must be fit for Surrey’s children.
· Noted the tax cuts proposed by the national Conservative Party leadership contenders which go against what the Council has been saying cross-party that local government and public services require extra funding, particularly for social care and roads and to tackle the aging population; asked whether the Leader would be raising the issues with the leadership contenders.
· As a result of the flux in Government, asked how likely it was that the county deal and levelling up proposals would continue and what the Council’s relationship should be with the district and borough councils; asked whether the Leader had spoken to the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on those matters and what the Council’s bargaining points were.
· That one of the last official acts of the previous Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities was to allow oil drilling in Dunsfold, previously refused by the Council's Planning and Regulatory Committee. Asked whether the Council would be lobbying the Government and new Secretary of State to reverse that decision in order to protect the Surrey Hills from oil drilling.
· Highlighted that Gatwick Airport was again consulting on its plan for a second runway after having underestimated the impact on the highway network and the economic impact of climate change. Asked the Leader for confirmation that there would be a Member briefing on the matter and that the Council’s response would be shared publicly before being agreed.
· Welcomed that the Council has been improving and the ambition of no one left behind but emphasised the need for more humility from all Members in distinguishing between how far the Council has come in different areas and what is good enough on issues around Children's Services and the highways.
· Welcomed that Children's Services was no longer under threat of takeover but noted that it was a long way from Ofsted’s outstanding rating and the provision of adequate places and services for children in the county, including those in care and with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
· That with the increase in child and fuel poverty, asked what transformation was still needed and what the Council’s emergency action plan was as prices rise and what role the Land and Property team would play in providing affordable homes as homelessness and food bank usage rises in Surrey.
· Welcomed the improvements in the Surrey Highways but noted that more was needed to address road safety and integrated transport to revolutionise bus fares to deliver the Surrey Transport Plan (Fourth Edition).
· Questioned whether the ongoing reorganisation would be enough to change the mindset to transform transport sufficiently to deliver the substantial reduction in carbon emissions needed across Surrey; progress on the estate and vehicle fleet risked underplaying the wider challenge across the county.
· Reiterated that it was a climate emergency and the Council needed to act, working cross-party on issues such as climate, children and roads.
· Paid tribute to the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) concerning the Surrey Heath fires, however highlighted the recent Staines fire when the fire was only put out because SFRS had to call upon the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service and the London Fire Brigade because of the cuts to and understaffing of SFRS.
· That with the delay to the Fair Funding Review, asked the Leader how or whether the Council should put pressure on Surrey’s MPs and the new incoming Government to ensure that Surrey receives a fair deal so that it can better serve its residents and not have to repeat the £15 million in cuts.