The Leader to make a statement.
There will be an opportunity for Members to ask questions and/or make comments.
The Leader of the Council made a detailed statement. A copy of the statement is attached as Appendix A.
Members raised the following topics:
· Welcomed the increased highway allocation and spend.
· Welcomed Liz Bruce the Council’s new Executive Director for Adult Social Care and Integrated Commissioning, who has joined at a challenging time with significant issues to be addressed around the Health and Social Care Levy, staffing and funding.
· Suggested that now might be the time for the Government to pause the process on reassessing county deals in light of the context around high inflation, rising food and energy costs, Covid-19 recovery, the war in Ukraine and movement of refugees, and the difficulty faced by local authorities in attracting and retaining staff.
· Welcomed the continued discussion by the Leader with the Borough and District Councils around Surrey’s County Deal, however Members’ scrutiny over the detail of what deal is proposed and the full costings would be essential; improvements needed to be made to the Council’s current services.
· Stressed that Members, officers and foster carers had a collective corporate parenting responsibility to ensure that Surrey’s Looked After Children are fully cared for; however noted that two of Surrey’s children's homes faced issues which surfaced through the press whereby one closed and a change of culture was required in the other.
· Noted that as part of the Council’s improvement through scrutiny, welcomed the extraordinary meeting of the Children, Families, Lifelong Learning and Culture Select Committee to take place in June which Members might wish to attend.
· Noted that Members should be told immediately of any issues as well as positives concerning children’s homes as reported by Ofsted, before they are informed via the press as Members require transparency and for the Council to have a willingness to understand and learn from issues.
· Highlighted the positive results for the Liberal Democrats in the recent local elections in Surrey, in contrast to the results for the Conservatives.
· Hoped the Leader genuinely listens to the concerns of voters and learns lessons from the results to change his party's approach as residents feel increasingly left behind by the Conservatives and the Council.
· Regarding the cost-of-living, worried that the Council was making the situation worse by increasing residential parking permits by up to 60%, and hoped that the Leader and the Cabinet would reconsider the increase.
· Noted concern about a lack of school places available for the refugees coming from Ukraine, Member question two highlighted that over half of the children from Ukraine in Surrey already do not have school places and more children were incoming; a step-change was needed.
· Welcomed the highways proposal announced by the Leader on the doubling of Member’s allocation from £50,000 to £100,000 and suggested that it would be useful for the Leader to circulate a briefing on where that in-year budget would come from.
· Highlighted that the Independent Review of Children's Social Care was published yesterday, real investment in the social care workforce was needed to stop placing 16- to 17-year-olds in potentially unsafe accommodation without supervision, and excess profits should play no part in children's care provision.
· Asked whether the Leader would support the Independent Review’s call for a windfall tax on profiteering children care contracts with some providers making 20% plus profits, and for that to be returned to local authorities.
· Noted that the Independent Review called for more investment in community-based services for children and asked whether increasing ultra-local children's centre outreach would be part of how the Council reviews how its policies help those most in need and introduce better support for vulnerable families.
· Regarding sustainable transport and the Council’s plans to deliver better local transport through a variety of initiatives, asked how the Council would work with Surrey’s Borough and District Councils and engage residents.
· Queried whether the Local and Joint Committees might be repurposed to support the rollout of the sustainable local transport initiatives, alternatively what would happen to ensure that positive change is supported by Surrey’s communities and happens faster.
· Asked how the extra £4 million a year allocation for transport was reflected in this year's budget.
· Asked the Leader to provide an update on the urgent negotiations with the bus companies for Ukrainian visitors hosted in Surrey, and the lack of school places for Ukrainian children.
· Stressed that many local residents were seriously affected by the cost-of-living crisis and were concerned by rising inflation and increases in energy bills, asked whether the Leader could provide an update on any specific measures that the Council has taken on the matter since March’s Leader’s Statement.
· Regarding the description for the Deputy Cabinet Member for Levelling up, asked for more detail on what the Leader understood by the description of levelling up with respect to Surrey and how he saw that agenda developing.
· Noted that residents would welcome the Leader’s announcement about the additional £50 million over the next two years in capital spending for highways maintenance.
· Noted that over the last four years there had been a significant and sustained improvement in the quality of Surrey’s highways network compared to the previous approach of managed decline.
· Noted that the £25 million in one year in capital spending would not be fully covered by the doubling of Member’s allocation to £100,000 and asked whether an additional part of the additional capital spending would go to the so-called minor roads as those were important to residents.
· Emphasised that it was right that the Council would prioritise highways maintenance over the next few years through the additional funding, but asked whether all options were on the table in respect of future financial years regarding the individual capital spend per Member.
· Echoed the Leader’s recognition of the good work by the Council’s Customer Services team and welcomed the Council’s move away from temporary contracts and appointment of those staff to full-time posts.
· Highlighted the impact of rising prices particularly on child poverty levels where parents often cannot afford their children’s school uniform or equipment or do not have time to spend with them, and asked whether the Leader agreed that the decision of the Conservative Party to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week was wrong and asked whether he would call for the uplift in benefits in line with inflation.
· Highlighted a point of concern that the £100,000 in Member’s allocation for highways over the next two years would be spent according to the suggestions of every individual Member, noting that it was a lot to expect that every Member would disperse that amount of money efficiently and wisely without there being an appropriate process behind it.
· Noted that there had not been a clear process around Member’s allocation for highways or the new structure, highlighted the absence of a clear timetable for submissions, an indicative price of different works, and guidance on how to facilitate democratic community engagement.
· Welcomed the doubling of Member’s allocation for highways and had been pleased by the guidance provided by the reshaped highways team; thanked the Leader and the Cabinet team for bringing in the changes to the highways team and look forward to seeing those progressing.