Agenda item


The Leader to make a statement.


There will be an opportunity for Members to ask questions and/or make comments.



A recruitment video regarding the Council’s Fostering Service was shown, the Chair encouraged Members to share the video and promote the work.


The Leader of the Council made a detailed statement. A copy of the statement is attached as Appendix A.


Rebecca Jennings-Evans joined the meeting at 10.28 am.


Members raised the following topics:


·         Noted that it felt as though the Government could not do anything right regarding industrial relations, long waiting lists, inability to agree a high-speed train line; that mantra of nothing is working appeared at the Council with some staff not being paid due to IT glitches, sought reassurance that they would be supported. 

·         Noted that the Leader did not mention climate change, over the last month the national Conservative Party distanced itself from previous commitments, asked what impact that would have on the Council’s climate change plans and whether the Leader disagreed with the Prime Minister’s change of tone.

·         Noted that residents were anxious that climate change was not mentioned in the Council's recent budget consultation, sought reassurance that it was an omission and fighting climate change remained a fundamental part of the Council's vision.

·         Regarding the recent inspection of Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), noted that the Leader’s tone in his statement around SFRS being on a journey of improvement was not reflected in the Council's triumphant response to the inspection report.

·         Noted that Woking residents were concerned that SFRS did not have a tall buildings policy in place there, urged the administration to be open and truthful with the challenges faced.

·         Noted that it was World Mental Health Day, in May 2019 the Council had adult social care packages in place for 426 people in Surrey, that had increased over the years to 725 in July 2023.

·         Noted that regarding children there were long waiting lists for mental health support and more children were absent from school.

·         Recognised that finances were challenging but questioned at what point the administration would invest more in proven effective early intervention and prevention services to stop statutory services’ costs spiralling out of control.

·         Stressed that people were not just being left behind but the odds were being stacked against them, it was the time to act to recognise the vast socio-economic differences across Surrey, for example 18 areas in Surrey were in the bottom 10% of the children and young people sub-domains and three areas were in the bottom 10% for the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index.

·         Wished that the warnings about the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) system had been heeded sooner to avoid the current crisis but welcomed the £15 million of additional funding over the next three years.

·         Noted however that there was no increased investment in early preschool intervention, that would lead to further escalation in need with backlog recovery impacted by more applications for needs assessments.

·         Noted that the supply of places on preschool programmes was outstripped by demand, regarding the local early autism programme the 18 places per quadrant could have been taken four times over this year.

·         Highlighted that the majority of the forecasted £24.4 million overspend against the budget related to the price inflation in social care placements for children's services, as Corporate Parents that was not good enough.

·         Noted that a higher proportion of children taken into care in Surrey had Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), last year's policy decisions to focus on the allocated budget for respite care and short breaks on some groups and remove it from others left gaps in support with devastating impacts.

·         As part of the equality impact assessments for the budget, would continue to challenge the administration to put a value on preventative and support services.

·         Noted that the system needed to be simplified, more complex caseworkers for children and more foster carers were needed; encouraged Members to reach out to their divisional foster carers to offer support.  

·         Noted that mental health and SEND support for children were the most raised issues, asked the Leader to advise what he could do to support that.

·         Asked whether the Leader would agree that the Council must increase pace to turn its Local Transport Plan (LTP4) into a better plan that works for all, ensuring that better Surrey public transport aligns to London's plan so it does not become more expensive to travel to London by train; noted the absence of funding to improve the alternatives of new cross-border bus routes, bike lanes and walking.

·         Noted that to make the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) fairer and improve transport systems, the Government needed to intervene by introducing fairer ways of charging to reduce road traffic along the principle of polluter pays.

·         Asked the Leader to call on the Government to introduce a national scrappage scheme, to prioritise funding for new bus routes, make permanent the £2 maximum bus fare, to cap train fares, to demand that it does not frustrate the potential to reduce speed limits and to introduce ‘school streets’.

·         Asked whether the Leader agreed that Gatwick Airport's expansion plans were at odds with LTP4, expanding road traffic with grade separated interchanges and increasing congestion, pollution, carbon emissions and off airport parking; for the Leader to provide assurance that Surrey’s response robustly highlights how the expansion undermines both LTP4 and climate commitments.

·         Asked the Leader to confirm that as well as providing statutory services, the Council would continue to provide non-statutory services going forward so it leaves no one behind. 

·         Joined the Leader in highlighting the importance of foster children having a good and loving family, setting out a future where they are valued.

·         Noted that the International Monetary Fund reported that the UK was expected to have the highest inflation and second lowest growth of the G7 economy, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer was therefore right to champion fiscal discipline which would be essential in restoring household finances.

·         Noted that in the Leader’s recognition of Government’s cuts to local government finances to deliver essential services, asked whether the Leader agreed that the Prime Minister was out of touch to consider cutting inheritance tax for the wealthiest while thousands of residents could not afford heating or rent/mortgage.

·         Asked whether the Leader agreed that the Government’s rolling back on its environmental promises to appease the right of the Conversative Party was wrong for future generations and the country's global image.

·         Asked whether the Leader would join him in thanking officers who helped secure funding for Egham to have the ‘liveable neighbourhoods’ funding for design and scoping works; and to lobby the Department for Transport against its scrappage.

·         Asked whether the Leader was aware that during September to now the new on-demand Surrey Connect bus service for West Guildford had seen a 45% increase in the number of bus passenger journeys compared with its predecessor run by Stagecoach, the service filled in a gap left by Arriva and Stagecoach.

·         Noted that residents were supportive of the new Surrey Connect bus service which was available 7am-7pm, particularly useful for those wishing to use the bus to commute; thanked the Leader for pursuing the policy.

·         Thanked the Government for the additional £7.9 million funding provided to help fund bus services in Surrey and could be used for real-time information displays, local services were vital to those with lower incomes or mobility issues; looked forward to seeing more bus services in Surrey.

·         Noted new and improved bus services in Camberley and sought for more facilities to make bus services friendlier, more accessible bus stops, more bus shelters and real-time information displays.

·         Noted that a highlight of being a Member had been the gradual but positive progress by the Council towards support for more liveable, walkable, cyclable neighbourhoods and communities for example via 20 mph zones and Active Travel Schemes; sought assurance that the administration would not turn its back on that progress as was the case by Government ministers.

·         Noted the importance of expanding the Surrey Connect bus service county-wide.

·         Hoped that the 458 bus service run by the White Bus operator becomes part of the £2 flat fare scheme.

·         Welcomed the Surrey Connect bus service in Cranleigh, it was important in rural areas enabling residents to access local services; however older residents were unable to book the service via phone and had to download the app, urged the Leader to review that.


Supporting documents: