Agenda item


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:


·         Endorsed the Leader's comments about Leigh Whitehouse, Interim Chief Executive, and Katie Stewart, Executive Director - Environment, Infrastructure and Growth, thanking them for their service to the Council. 

·         Noted that the Council appeared to be in limbo, with significant change in senior staff and a cancelled Cabinet meeting, that was not good enough for residents.

·         Agreed with the need to renew, noting the significant work ahead for the permanent Chief Executive.

·         Thanked officers in Children’s Services for their work and dedication in ensuring continued improvement, however noted the two weaknesses identified by Ofsted in its recent report: the inconsistent standard in letters to vulnerable families, and the need to improve the consistency and quality of the Council’s direct work with children and families across Surrey.

·         Feared for the financial future of local government and the Council, councils’ funding had been cut by 25% since 2016, further cuts would be detrimental just as they were dealing with increased inflation costs and service pressures.

·         Noted that vulnerable residents in Surrey paid the price for governments not fixing social care, called on the Leader to continue to lobby for a proper solution.

·         Reflected on the last year where there had been improvement, verges were being cut and mapped, although the quality of the cutting could be improved.

·         Noted that there was progress on the backlog of Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), with more educational psychologists, however MindWorks was closed to neurodiversity diagnoses leaving children and schools to struggle.

·         Noted that the number of complaints their political group received on Children’s Services remained high. Children's homes and extra care housing were being built and more Special Educational Needs and Disabilities(SEND) places were provided, yet that costed more than budgeted and took longer than planned.

·         Noted the forthcoming changes to senior officers and a general election, it was the last year Members could work together before the 2025 local elections.

·         Noted that the biggest challenge faced by the Council was setting a balanced budget by bridging the gap between ‘no one left behind’ and what is delivered, welcomed more Member engagement on the draft budget but there remained challenges still to be addressed with strained revenue and capital budgets.

·         Noted the need to look at areas of high expenditure holistically, for example looking at the interdependencies with children's social care, seeking continuous improvement and early intervention and prevention were fundamental.

·         Noted the need to maximise the support for foster carers, to attract and retain them to care for Surrey’s children to the best of their ability.

·         Noted that the management and scrutiny of the capital programmes that provide better outcomes for children and reduce revenue costs and a clear strategy for performance improvement were critical, SEND places must be of the right type and location.

·         Stressed that the Council must spend taxpayers’ money well, learning from the overspend from Unit4/MySurrey delivered eighteen months late.

·         Noted that all must consider the Council's core values of being excellent, open, working together, respecting others; officers must draw on Members’, residents’ and the voluntary sector’s knowledge to improve services.

·         Noted that the MindWorks situation, Foster Carers’ Charter roll out and letters to parents and carers about one point of contact did not fulfil those values.

·         Referred to research which found that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could reduce economic costs of climate change by two thirds, a one degree Celsius rise could cause a 12% decline in Gross Domestic Product, Surrey’s 5 million tonnes of emissions equated to £4.5 billion of annual damage.

·         Noted that it was estimated that at half the cost of a national approach and delivering three times the benefits, council-led climate action would achieve net zero by 2050. Asked how the Leader would lobby the issue, scaling up Surrey’s capital programme and to encourage other councils to do the same.

·         Referred to research that Sure Start centres improved educational, physical and mental health outcomes, substantially reducing SEND and mental health costs and reducing hospitalisations. Queried what the impact was of closing family centres across Surrey and reducing support given to preschool children.

·         Noted that when the MindWorks contract was recently scrutinised, the NHS reported that their medical model was no longer working and called for the support in moving to a social model.

·         Noted that in 2011 the Council recognised the positive outcomes for young people from the former universal youth delivery service, especially for those most vulnerable, that preventative work reduced costly interventions.

·         Asked whether the Leader would agree with the NHS about the need to recognise the links between universal children services, schools and the NHS, to be part of the Council’s commitment to leaving no one behind.

·         Asked whether the Leader would agree that the Council must lobby the Chancellor to increase funding to councils to provide universal youth services and to be able to lead in greater climate action.

·         Noted that potholes and fly-tipping were an ongoing issue for many residents, called for the better monitoring of temporary traffic lights and noted that the frequency and quality of grass cutting needed to be addressed.

·         Asked the Leader to use his influence to lobby National Highways to improve the traffic flow around Wisley, M25 junction 10/A3 Wisley interchange.

·         Referred to the Ofsted report where the number of staff vacancies and overreliance on agency staff was highlighted, asked the Leader how he planned to address that.

·         Asked the Leader whether he and his Cabinet would try to improve Surrey’s relations with London through the Mayor of London.

·         Noted that when they became a Member, there were nine officers paid over £100,000, that figure was now forty-two.

·         Called for stopping the approach of resolving problems by appointing more directors. Under the new Chief Executive, the senior leadership team must be leaner and more targeted, focusing on the appointment of frontline officers where there were many vacancies and agency staff.

·         Welcomed the new online grass cutting map for verges and decision to go back to contracting out the maintenance to the borough and district councils.

·         Noted disappointment in verges without sight line implications to highways, that despite declaring a Climate Emergency and developing a Local Nature Recovery Strategy, the Council backtracked on reducing the amount of grass cuttings during summer with uncut grass being vital to wildlife and biodiversity.


Supporting documents: