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 1 February 2023).
Notice of eighteen questions had been received. The questions and replies were published in the second supplementary agenda (items 5i and 6) on 6 February 2023.
A number of supplementary questions were asked and a summary of the main points is set out below:
(Q3) Robert Evans OBE referring to the £57.2 million increase using the Consumer Price Index (CPI), asked what assurance the Cabinet Member could provide that it would address and adequately cope with the pressures on the service due to inflation.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Adults and Health noted that he could not guarantee that the above figure would be enough due to the uncertainty around inflation and the day-to-day pressures in Adult Social Care. He provided assurance that the money would be used effectively and it was a good step forward.
(Q5)Catherine Powell reiterated part (c) of her question which had not been fully answered, she noted that those private businesses included companies called CareCo and Healthcare Pro which were the only two private businesses selected for bath lifts. She asked how those were selected.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Adults and Health would provide a written response once he had more information.
(Q6) Fiona White asked whether the Leader would agree that whilst it was prudent to use agency or temporary staff for one-off projects, their use on a long-term basis was costly and was not in residents’ best interests. Referring to the overall spend of which 55% was spent on locum workers in the Children, Families and Lifelong Learning Directorate, she asked the Leader whether he would agree that the money would have been better spent on an enhanced offer to make working for Surrey more appealing, both for the recruitment and retention of workers.
Jonathan Essex asked the Leader to confirm how much over and above the payroll cost was the spend on agency staff.
In response to Fiona White, the Leader agreed that the Council did not want to be dependent upon agency or temporary staff, it was a consequence of there being a shortage of suitably qualified people; it was a challenge to recruit people into Surrey, partly due to the cost of housing. He hoped that as part of the pay negotiations with the Trade Unions, the Council would be able to support those key frontline staff. He noted that one of the key priorities for the new Director for People and Change, was to help progress the ongoing recruitment and retention work regarding permanent staff.
Responding to Jonathan Essex, he noted that he did have a breakdown of all the areas where the agency and temporary staff were being used but would liaise with the People and Change (HR) team to find out that uplift.
(Q7)Lance Spencer asked whether the Leader was unable or was simply unwilling to answer his question.
In response, the Leader asked for him to define what he considered a consultant to be and then he would provide a full answer; for example, some of the agency and temporary staff were referred to as consultants.
(Q10) George Potter calculated from the figures that there was an 18% vacancy rate for lawyers and a 22% vacancy rate for support staff, which were being filled on a locum basis. He asked what impact the shortfall had, particularly the impact on large capital projects involving the Land and Property team such as building schools for SEND pupils and extra care housing for the elderly and or disabled people.
In response, the Leader noted that the Director of Law and Governance was working hard to recruit and retain lawyers. He had regular updates with him and was not aware that there was any negative impact on the delivery of service as a result of having to be dependent upon locum lawyers.
(Q11) Liz Townsend pointed out that no other areas had seen the dramatic cut in short break services as seen by some of the most vulnerable residents in the boroughs of Waverley and Guildford. She asked the Cabinet Member if she had assessed the additional travel cost to families and how that would be funded, and what assurance she could provide that her residents would be able to access critical short break services in other boroughs and districts as the response noted that their funding in real terms had also been cut.
Jonathan Essex asked whether the Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) could be shared, concerning the cut in outcome services which had been made.
In response to Liz Townsend, the Cabinet Member for Education and Learningnoted that difficult decisions are made when dispersing money and resources within a directorate across the services that are required. Due to the pressure on the CFLL Directorate’s budget, one such decision made was that it was not possible to increase the number of resources that went into short break services. The range of services provided by some suppliers had reduced due to inflation, high demand and workforce challenges. The Directorate had tried to use the funds available to ensure that as much provision could be provided for vulnerable families, and it was regrettable that there was not as much provision on offer in some parts of the county. She could not give her that assurance, however she highlighted the support provided to those families through holiday clubs for vulnerable children including SEND provision through the Club4 programme. She noted that a high percentage of families and children eligible for short breaks chose to use their personal budgets to make the choices that suited them, including respite, overnight and holiday care; the service ensured that a shortfall in Council short breaks provision did not coincide with a shortfall in NHS respite provision. She recognised that short breaks were a lifeline and the service tried to ensure an equitable share across Surrey.
Responding to Jonathan Essex, the Cabinet Member would look to provide the EIA if one had been prepared.
(Q13) Mark Sugden noted that the residents of Claygate looked forward to the upcoming repairs to Woodstock Lane South. He asked the Cabinet Member to ask Surrey Highways at the time of repairs to pay particular attention to drainage as there was significant local flooding at that location when it rained.
Edward Hawkins noted that he was under pressure to spend next year's capital maintenance allowance on two major schemes: firstly, the Maultway which suffered severely from delamination and potholes due to the Esso pipeline works and secondly, Ravenswood Roundabout. He would be grateful if the Cabinet Member would assist him in bringing forward those two works.
In response to Mark Sugden, the Cabinet Member for Highways and Community Resiliencewould pass that information on to the Highways team.
Responding to Edward Hawkins, the Cabinet Member noted that would liaise with him on the matter; he sought to resolve Members’ issues and tried to get the best repairs possible.
(Q15) Robert Evans OBE asked the Cabinet Member whether he could answer the second sentence of his question without deviation, repetition and without reference to or blaming the weather inaffecting the roads.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Highways and Community Resilience noted that the role of the opposition was to blame.
(Q16) Catherine Powell noted that the new British Association of Social Workers (BASW) guidance was generated because of an increased number of cases being brought regarding Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII) within Surrey and nationally. Whilst the review was underway, she asked the Cabinet Member what steps were being taken to ensure that further cases of inappropriate FII being raised against parents were dealt with, she noted a case in her division.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Children and Families acknowledged that there was work to do. She would provide a written response including a clear timeline of the work underway.
(Q17) Lance Spencer asked whether it was normal for a property to be waiting for five years before the Council moved forward with a business case to the Cabinet. If approved, he asked how long it would take for the replacement building work to start.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Property and Waste explained that the Lakers Youth Centreburnt down and there had been two years of Covid-19. Since then, the Lakers Centre site had been identified as a potential site for Supported Independent Living and it was decided that it was not suitable and was currently being identified for short breaks provision. She hoped that once approved by the Cabinet, work would proceed quickly through the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) stages and the Council would be on site in 2023 with the work to be delivered in 2024/25.
(Q18) Catherine Powell noted that the response confirmed that the green hydrogen in the UK would not be available for many years and would instead be imported from Rotterdam and Saudi Arabia in the short to medium term. She asked the Cabinet Member to provide details of the carbon footprint calculations that he had referred to and whether he thought green hydrogen would be available in the UK sooner or later than 2030.
In response, the Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Growth noted that he would provide the details of the carbon footprint and that he would be speaking with Metrobus on the matter. He explained that the Council was investing £16 million on low emission buses on top of the £50 million commitment to the bus network. The new hydrogen buses would start driving the hydrogen delivery within the UK and he was speaking to several companies within Surrey who were looking to produce hydrogen locally. He anticipated that green hydrogen would be available in the next few years in the UK.