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:
· Noted that there remained problems concerning Home to School Transport assistance, including communications issues experienced by parents seeking information on their applications for assistance; many unnecessary appeals as a result of the policy being too rigidly applied, and examples of parents experiencing delays and difficulties in arranging transport for their children.
· Stressed that lessons needed to be learned quickly to avoid any repetition, and that sufficient resources were needed as well as regular communication.
· The Leader’s apology was welcomed, and support was offered to finding solutions to address the problems. Surrey Live, BBC Radio Surrey and BBC South Today were thanked for publicising the issues raised above.
· Clarified that there was no suggestion from the Residents' Association and Independents Group that Your Fund Surrey should be closed down - the motion asked for a pause.
· Noted the challenging economic situation for the country and county.
· Noted that Woking Borough Council held its cost-of-living summit a few weeks ago and contributions from the Council’s staff were welcomed; an action plan was being developed to help people in Woking and disappointment was expressed that the Council had decided not to do the same thing across Surrey.
· Asked where the warm hubs would be located and when these would be available, in order to provide certainty to residents.
· Whilst the Council still referred to ‘no one left behind’, the support on offer was not enough for people to make ends meet, more people were being left behind nationally and in Surrey. An example was given of a family without a car who challenged the mileage allowance that they had been given for the whole winter term for their child.
· Queried why youth centres and thirty-five local childcare hubs had been closed whilst started investing in community centres elsewhere through the £100 million Your Fund Surrey programme.
· The Children, Families, Lifelong Learning and Culture Select Committee had reviewed the new targeted family centre model without evidence to compare to what was there before, and it was instead suggested that there could be initiatives in all communities to help with education.
· Asked whether all poorly heated and insulated homes within Surrey should be in an Investment Zone, as a result of the cost of living and climate crises. Asked where the proposed Investment Zone in Surrey would be located, and questioned whether the Government’s rush for local authorities to decide their location by the end of the week was to exclude residents from being consulted.
· Asked the Leader to provide the Government with a plan and asked whether he agreed that the Council should be investing in better universal services and delivering a greener future for the whole county.
· Quoted from the recent review of the Greener Futures Climate Change Delivery Plan about the need for the Council to lessen its funding gap which prevents the alignment of projects with what needs to happen, and asked the Leader to call on the Government to enable the Council to invest in the jobs its needs to directly deliver against those priorities to make Surrey greener and fairer.
· Acknowledged that a lot had changed since the Council last met, noting the new monarch and new Prime Minister.
· Despite the Leader saying that ‘we need to batten down the hatches and hold firm’, asked whether the Leader was aware that every Government department had received a letter from the Chancellor of the Exchequer telling them that they needed to make more efficiency savings.
· Noted that in facing up to more cuts in the Council’s budget, asked whether the Leader had any correspondence with the Government on the matter and what support Surrey’s Members of Parliament were providing.
· Asked how the Council could accommodate more cuts to vital services, and how this would impact on services and residents.
· Asked whether the Leader was aware that in the coming months and year 600,000 fixed term rate mortgages would come to an end, asked what the Leader’s plan was for those people who would no longer be able to afford their mortgage payments and may soon be homeless.
· Contrary to the Leader’s comment, some Members felt that the administration was abandoning Surrey’s communities, noting the issues around Home to School Transport, children in care, Adult Social Care, fire service coverage, the cost-of-living crisis and youth centres; they felt that it had failed to tackle the problems.
· Highlighted the upcoming difficult winter for many nationally with rising rents, mortgage rates and energy bills, the increased use of food banks and the new warm hubs and asked whether that was all there was to show for twelve years of Conservative Party Government.
· Thanked the Leader for recognising Members’ role in the community and the importance of charities and for his offer to ensure that Members could work flexibly to ensure that Surrey’s communities were supported.
· Referring to the Leader’s comments about building a directory of support, asked whether that would be shared with Members before it was published so that they can add their invaluable local knowledge.
· Noted that warm hubs were already being established in many areas across Surrey before the notification from the Council was released, those warm hubs would also include free food; asked that the Council and the Leader reaches out to other organisations to see what they were already doing.