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 6 July 2022).
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.
Becky Rush left the meeting at 10.39 am.
Notice of twenty-three questions had been received. The questions and replies were published in the supplementary agenda on 11 July 2022.
A number of supplementary questions were asked and a summary of the main points is set out below:
(Q1) Trefor Hogg noted that given the food within its use by date can often be frozen, he asked the Cabinet Member for Property and Waste to ensure that space to accommodate freezers on the Council’s premises for food banks is mandated wherever possible.
Catherine Powell asked whether theCouncil could look to use apps such as OLIO which allow food that cannot be used on the day to be advertised online and distributed on the day to those in need free for collection.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Property and Waste noted that the food service was currently contracted out to Selecta UK. She would look into Trefor Hogg’s request with the Facilities Management team and would look into Catherine Powell’s request.
(Q3) Robert King asked whether the Cabinet Member for Education and Learning was confident that meals and the nutrition of meals in all schools in Surrey in a year's time would be the same they are today.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Education and Learning explained that both the funding and the nutrition of meals would be sustained for Surrey’s children. She noted that the funding from the Department for Education was maintained for the next three years for the provision for school holidays. She highlighted that the Council continued to provide assistance to families with children eligible for free school meals during school holidays and provision had continued during the academic year. Regarding the summer holidays, families would be provided with holistic support such as supermarket vouchers and activities for children.
(Q4) Robert Evans referring to the comparative figures of the Council budget over the same period, asked whether the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources was aware that since the last census the Consumer Price Index had increased by nearly 20%. He asked how she felt that had impacted on the Council’s services and budget.
In response, the Leader, in the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources’ temporary absence, noted that he would ask the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources to provide a written response. The Leader noted that the Council’s budgeting process considers anticipated inflation and he noticed from the census that there had been a reduction in the number of older people in the county, which could make a difference to Adult Social Care.
(Q6) Nick Darby asked whether the Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Economy could provide his thoughts in relation to corridors to allow resident access to the M3 and two local hospitals.
Will Forster noted that the response states that fines generated in Surrey would be retained in Surrey. He noted that was nonsensical as fines would be generated in London and sought clarification on whether fines generated by vehicles registered in Surrey should be spent in Surrey. He asked whether the Council had the legal power to create ULEZ for Surrey in the future.
David Harmer asked the Cabinet Member whether he was aware of the impact on school teachers cross-border with London, as there could be considerable chaos in the education system.
The Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Economy responded to Nick Darby, noting that the ULEZ consultation was underway by Transport for London (TfL). He informed the Member that the Council would make that point about corridors particularly concerning access to hospitals and the Council could lobby them to change certain elements, however he noted that the corridors do not follow the border exactly as they give people a chance to turn around and avoid the ULEZ.
The Cabinet Member responded to Will Forster, explaining that because the fines would affect the vehicles from Surrey and neighbouring counties, he was liaising with his counterparts in the surrounding county councils bordering London to have a pan-London response. He noted that Surrey should not be paying for Londoners to be able to scrap their cars, that scheme should be extended to Surrey and the neighbouring counties because it would be those residents who would be paying for the fines to enter London. Consideration was also needed on the improvement to the cross-border public transport which was not mentioned in the consultation. The Government has extended moving traffic enforcement powers and the Council had received its moving traffic enforcement powers and would be commencing enforcement going forward.
The Cabinet Member responded to David Harmer, agreeing that it was a concern and needed to be taken into account, it would form part of the Council’s general response to the consultation. He reminded Members of the Member Development session on 18 July 2022 regarding the expansion of the ULEZ, where further comments would be collated.
(Q9) Will Forster noted that less buses on some of Surrey’s busiest routes was not positive. He asked what the Council’s and Stagecoach’s plan was to recruit more drivers to ensure that Surrey has the public transport network that it needs.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Economy noted that the Council was meeting with Stagecoach’s senior management and director regularly. He noted that there was a driver shortage nationally, many bus drivers had a conversion on their licence allowing them to move into the HGV sector. That with the acquisition of Arriva, Stagecoach did not get the same level of drivers moving over to their company. He provided assurance that none of the Council’s subsidised routes are affected as it is commercial routes operated by Stagecoach that are affected. Stagecoach had recruited an additional ten drivers recently and the Council would continue to work with them to encourage them to do more.
(Q10) Hazel Watson asked which adult education courses are being provided by East Surrey College in Mole Valley.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Education and Learning noted that the Surrey Adult Learning received a very good grading from its Ofsted inspection in May and the demand for adult learning in Surrey was shifting with around a third of learning done remotely with the rest done face-to-face, compared to all face-to-face learning pre-pandemic. The Council was working with East Surrey College to explore how it can improve the opportunity and availability for adult learning and Mole Valley residents. She would look to provide a list of all of the courses available. It was the Council’s ambition that Mole Valley would receive all of the of the opportunities available that are extended to the rest of Surrey.
(Q11) Lance Spencer asked the Cabinet Member for Education and Learning whether she was confident that all Ukrainian children would be found places by September when the new term begins and that sufficient resources would be available to support those children with any mental health issues they might have.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Education and Learning noted that the Council recognised the additional needs and vulnerabilities of children with refugee status and additional demands placed on the schools. Schools were able to access Educational Psychology support via weekly telephone conversations and mental health support via Mindworks Surrey. The salary scale had been uplifted for Educational Psychology and the data showed that outputs exceed the capacity. She provided assurance that the Council was focusing on a long-term plan for more active engagement in early intervention.
(Q12)Robert King had no supplementary question.
David Lewis (Cobham) he asked whether the Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Economy could advise whether Surrey Highways could look to ensure that Sat Nav systems are updated to reflect the diversion routes concerning the M25 junction 10/A3 Wisley Interchange work that have been agreed with National Highways.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Economy noted that he and the Member would be meeting with National Highways tomorrow to discuss the matter.He explained that Sat Navs are updated on a six-monthly basis, so it is unlikely that the diversion routes would be programmed in; however there would be the necessary signage on the roads where the diversion routes are in place. He provided assurance noting that Surrey Highways had programmed in a number of works on the local network, National Highways would have to work around those as they do not automatically get a diversion or get to choose where it goes.
Becky Rush rejoined the meeting at 10.55 am.
(Q13)Robert Evans had no supplementary question.
Catherine Powell highlighted the apparent situation occurring in Surrey where in some areas where numbers are increasing in some schools and decreasing in other schools. She asked the Cabinet Member for Education and Learning how the Council could better plan for housing developments to ensure there were places for students without breaching the maximum numbers and to ensure that all of the schools within Surrey are protected, particularly around the borders with Hampshire and other districts and boroughs.
Jonathan Essex referred to the written response which stated that the Department for Education would not share the data of class sizes regarding academies, he asked the Cabinet Member whether the Council could ask the academies directly. As knowing the class sizes of academies and schools would help with the placement of Ukrainian refugee children over the summer, and to understand the capacity across Surrey.
The Cabinet Member for Education and Learning responding to Catherine Powell, clarifying that capital funding from the Government was for the provision of additional places and was not directly related to class size. She explained that additional school places were allocated through the admissions process and were not based on class sizes unless in relation to limits through infant class size legislation.She outlined the multiple reasons why classes may have more than thirty pupils in relation to nursery classes, from year three onwards there are no limits on class sizes and the School Admissions Code sets out a number of exceptions.
The Cabinet Member noted that she would take away the question from Jonathan Essex about the academies and provide a written response.
(Q14) Nick Darby welcomed that the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources had written to HMRC. He asked for assurance that Members would be provided with a copy of the response as it is received.
In response, the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources noted that she was happy to provide a copy of the response once received.
(Q15) Catherine Baart referring to Project Horizon, noted that although the criteria were published, the scoring for each individual scheme was not shown on the website. She asked whether the Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Economy agreed that providing a link on the website for each individual scheme, and how it been scored would provide full transparency for the selection of the project Horizon Schemes.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Economy suggested having a discussion after the meeting on the matter. He noted that the Member could write to the Highways team who would be able to provide the scoring for a specific road. He was unsure of the wider benefit of publishing all the scoring information. The Highways team was about to rewrite the Project Horizon criteria, ensuring that it is in line with the Surrey Transport Plan (Fourth Edition), therefore having that discussion after the meeting would inform the Highways team on what to include going forward.
(Q16) Jonathan Essex highlighted that the response states that a team of officers was being pulled together to address the issues. Once that team was up and running, he wondered whether there could be a briefing to all councillors across Surrey: Members, borough and district councillors and parish councillors on what they were doing so all residents can be provided with support.
In response, the Deputy Cabinet Member for Environment in the Cabinet Member for Environment’s absence, would discuss the matter with the Cabinet Member for Environment and would liaise with the Member.
(Q17) Robert King asked the Cabinet Member for Education and Learning whether she would look at a new informal check at point of appeal for parents by officers, as parents often fail to provide sufficient evidence at time of appeal because they do not understand the process. He also asked whether she agreed that an outstanding rated school for a child without SEND needs is often different to a child with SEND needs.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Education and Learning explained that the appeals process had been thoroughly reviewed, so that parents are adequately supported and prepared. There was a new parent guide and there was officer representation within the Member cohort so that the schedule and frequency of appeals can be maintained. She noted that she would not wish to differentiate the quality of provision provided to any child within Surrey, more weight was not put on providing outstanding education for one student over another.
(Q18) Robert Evans noted confusion in the response which states that no reference was made to Surrey County Council in the article, however the article stated that more than one third of schools in Surrey had buildings in urgent need of repair and across the county 151 state-funded schools had at least one building at serious risk of imminent failure. He requested that the Cabinet Member provides a response that answers his question.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Property and Waste noted that according to officers, the Surrey article refers to the national position. She noted that one school that urgently needed replacement was Reigate Priory Junior School and the Department for Education funding of £10 million had been secured for its replacement, the planning application for the new carbon net zero school proposed to be delivered on the site was submitted in June.
(Q19) Nick Darby had no supplementary question.
Steve Bax noted that Gladstone Place/Summer Road were in his division, he had been meeting with residents and officers to discuss the matter. He asked whether as divisional member he could be included in any discussions on the matter with Nick Darby.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Economy noted that he was happy to include Steve Bax in any discussions.
(Q20) Catherine Baart noted that the fees for auditing were agreed in 2007, she asked whether there were plans to review the hourly rate and also whether it would be possible to review existing travel plans against the Surrey Transport Plan (Fourth Edition).
In response, the Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Economynoted that he was happy to look into the requests made.
(Q21) Jonathan Essex asked for clarification on the timeline which the team was working to, he asked when Members and residents would get to see the results or progress made on the subject of reviewing future bus provision.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Economynoted that the Council was in discussions with the bus operators. He explained that public consultation would be launched later this year, the new contracts and routes need to be agreed by December and January; to be in place for September 2023.
(Q22) Catherine Baart noted that when she cycles along shared pavement on the A23 she crosses twenty give way lines and drivers can see those and that they apply to cyclists. She asked whether she should be giving way to the vehicles or whether she should trust them to follow the Highway Code and give way to her. She asked whether the Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Economy agreed that the matter was confusing and unsafe for cyclists and motorists.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Economy advised the Member to never assume that someone is going to give way. Regarding the Surrey Transport Plan (Fourth Edition) and changes to the Highway Code it would take time for Surrey Highways to retrofit all of its existing road network, including all the cycleways. Surrey Highways was costing up what it could do quickly across the county to start retrofitting continuous pavements and the long-term costings were being worked out.
Cabinet Member Briefings:
These were also published in the supplementary agenda on 11 July 2022.
Members made the following comments:
Cabinet Member for Property and Waste: on the gasifier at the Eco Park in operation, Nick Harrison asked whether the county has signed it off as fully operational in accordance with the specification, particularly concerning its reliability, effectiveness and emissions.
In response, the Cabinet Member confirmed that the independent certifier had signed off the gasifier. Under the terms of the Council’s agreement with Suez, it has to operate 55% of the time and it is currently operating at that level and the Environment Agency are also happy with the current limits.
Leader, and Cabinet Member for Education and Learning: on a comment made by the Leader in his response under the Leader’s Statement to a comment on home to school transport appeals and that there was a delay because of Members not putting their names forward and it was a comprehensive change as the Cabinet Member for Education and Learning had outlined. Chris Townsend sought clarification on the matter as Members from the Residents' Association and Independent Group had put their name forward for the appeals and received no response; a later email stated that the matter was still being worked on.
In response, the Leader clarified that his point was that there was a lack of Member availability for the home to school transport hearings.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Education and Learning confirmed that there was a lack of Member availability which led to delays and to the review of the whole process. She recognised that some Members did provide their availability during that process and that was followed up by Democratic Services and officers to resolve as the appeals process was being changed to provide remote accessibility for parents. That had been completed and the schedules had been set.
Deputy Cabinet Member for Children and Families: on the review of the family centres underway, Catherine Powell wondered when the report would be issued as a local family centre remained locked for all but two hours a week. She would like to understand what the Council was going to do to improve that situation.
In response, the Deputy Cabinet Member would take that comment away and would provide a written response.
Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Economy:regarding Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs) and Active Travel, Ernest Mallett MBE asked the Cabinet Member whether he could issue Members with a table of the headings and location of the schemes which had been repeated, agreed, under consideration and refused; as residents sought information on the matter. Whilst there were proposals in Molesey, he would like to know if they had been refused or not.
In response, the Cabinet Member confirmed that a table could be provided to the Member.
Cabinet Member for Children and Families:welcomed that Members were able to make a contribution from their local allocation into the Celebration Fund for Looked After Children and Care Leavers last year. Rebecca Jennings-Evans asked whether the Cabinet Member could share with Members how money from the Celebration Fund is being used to improve the quality of life for those children.
Eber Kington referred to a comment made by the Leader in his response under the Leader’s Statement that regarding Children's Services the Council was no longer inadequate, but that should not be the measure of success as it was about getting the best outcome for Surrey’s children. He asked whether the Cabinet Member could confirm whether she would also not be using Ofsted judgments as a measure of success going forward.
In response, the Cabinet Member thanked the twenty-nine Members who generously contributed some of their Members’ Allocation to the Celebration Fund which is a small discretionary fund established to support Surrey’s Looked After Children and Care Leavers in a variety of ways such as to pursue hobbies and to go out on trips. A large number of awards had been made during the course of the last year. She would send Members the printed annual report of the Celebration Fund. She would welcome contributions from Members for the new municipal year to the Celebration Fund.
The Chair noted that she was sure that Members would be happy to continue to contribute to this worthwhile cause.
In response, the Cabinet Member explained that the general improvement of Children's Services in Surrey as she and the Leader have frequently said, is the highest priority of the Council. The Council has an ambition for outstanding services which are recognised by Ofsted and the Council had made progress in its Children's Services. She emphasised that it was not simply a journey to reach the outstanding rating to tick a box for Ofsted, but that it is the Council’s journey to provide the best possible services for Surrey’s children, young people and their families.