Happy New Year – don’t let anyone dim your light

Whatever we think about the last year and the last decade, we are once again on the brink of another one. It’s a time for reflection. So ….

I think that the policy of austerity has been cruel, and its impact has fallen on those who are least able to shoulder its burden – hungry children; so many homeless; potholes in our roads. Cuts wound, and Britain is wounded. That Britain has food banks at all is a national shame. That it has so many food banks is a deep gash on the face of our country.

Friends tell me to cheer up, that all will be well. And I do hope so!

However, I think that we need to look squarely at the difficulties that face us so that we can campaign for, work for a better future for all. When we see hate and racism on the rise; the vulnerable suffering disproportionately; our home planet suffering fire and flood, we need to reset our moral compass. So, with this in mind, I have chosen three categories of role models who guide me into the future. These categories are local, national and international.

My choice in this local category is Paul Follows. So young, so capable, so ready to listen to, and to act for our community. He has given his time and his talents freely and willingly and he will make an excellent MP somewhere and somewhen. Here and soon, I hope.

In the national category, I choose John Bercow, the ex-House of Commons Speaker, the Speaker who has championed Parliament, upholding its sovereignty against the odds. He calls for us all to moderate our language and return to considerate and courteous debate. Every single Speaker for 230 years has been Knighted with the exception of John Bercow. Better to deserve honours and not to have them than to have them and not deserve them.

And internationally, I choose Greta Thunberg. Has there ever been anyone like her? She is an inspiration; a still, small voice that we all must heed. We must live more simply so that our world may simply live.

I finish with some words from another of my heroes – the late, great Jim Henson. He was an educator and made us laugh and cry. He wrote these words to his children,

“Life is meant to be fun and joyous and fulfilling. May each of yours be. Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It’s a good life, enjoy it.”

And so say I.

Happy New Year

Michael O’Sullivan receives Surrey Volunteer Service Award

Officisl Photos
Officisl Photos

What a privilege to nominate Michael O’Sullivan for the Surrey Volunteer Service Award. I am so pleased that his service to sport and film and so much more in our community has been acknowledged by the Chair, Tony Samuels.
Congratulations, Michael and Mary.

Michael’s nomination:

Michael O’Sullivan is involved in many volunteering roles – so a snapshot of some of those activities…

SPORT GODALMING

Michael is vice-chairman of Sport Godalming (which is our local sports council) – some of the activities he has been involved with include the running of various sporting events to coincide with and also to celebrate the amazing summer of 2012 – Sport Godalming was responsible for organising its ‘Sports for All’ day to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which attracted tremendous local interest – it also coincided with a Jubilee run in both 5K & 10K routed through the Town and surrounds as well as a fun run – these races attracted over 800 participants and this inaugural event (called the Godalming Run) is now firmly in the Town diary and happens every May. This royal day was also honoured by a visit from the Earl & Countess of Wessex.

The Olympic Torch came through Godalming that year and Michael was heavily involved with this event on the Burys Field – where Sport Godalming also organised an ‘old fashioned sports day’ with over 1,000 children participating.

Sport Godalming runs a ‘Go for Gold’ programme which finances, through the Godalming Run, funds to support local athletes in their pursuit of Olympic and International success – to date it has raised many thousands of pounds for their benefit.

Michael was invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace that October in the presence of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh to represent Sport Godalming with other volunteers to celebrate our involvement in the Jubilee celebrations earlier that year.

Michael was presented with the Town Mayor’s award for Volunteers in 2013.

Michael also masterminds our annual sports awards which celebrates the best of our local sporting community, which always plays to a packed house.

FOOTBALL

Michael held the post of President of Farncombe Youth Football Club for many years and was instrumental in guiding the Club from its modest beginnings (two teams when founded in 1975) to over 20 boys’ and girls’ teams today.

At the Club he developed the ethos of the provision of a youth football club, welcoming children of all abilities, to play in a competitive but friendly spirit. He was instrumental in driving forward the acquisition in 1991 of the Club’s home, Meade’s Park in Farncombe, and the development of a new clubhouse and changing rooms.

He also held the post of Chairman from 1988 – 1993, but his main love remained responsibility for the Nursery Squad of children of pre and early school years before these children were old enough to fledge into team football.

RUGBY

Michael was Chairman of Guildford Rugby Club during a particularly challenging time in the club’s history. The Guildford & Godalming Rugby Club based in Broadwater and Old Guildfordians, based in Stoke Park Guildford, merged in 2002 and Michael took over the Chairmanship of the new rugby club entitled Guildford Rugby Club in 2005.

Over several years Michael was instrumental in running events and raising a lot of money both for the club and for charity.

FILMS AND FILM SOCIETY

Michael has more than forty years’ experience in both film, television, video/DVD and cinema exhibition. He joined Paramount in 1972 and has worked overseas in Holland and hopped across the Atlantic on many occasions.

Michael’s film industry roles include Chairman and Honorary President of Production Guild, Member and Chairman of Guild of Film Production Accountants, Executive Committee Member of Guild of Film Production Executives. 

Now retired, he still is involved with the industry in many ways – he recently travelled to Qatar to help a colleague get a film off the ground and at home is Publicity Coordinator for the Godalming Film Society.

The Society was established in 2007 and had grown to around 250 members by the time Michael joined in 2014. The Society’s main purpose is to bring world cinema to a local audience but thanks to a thriving membership, the management committee was looking at ways to enhance the society offering to its members and the community when Michael joined the committee. Michael’s invaluable knowledge and experience in the film industry was applied in two new ventures.

The first venture was to establish a small fund (£1500) each year to be used to support new local film makers. Michael drafted the terms and conditions for awarding this grant and led a small sub-committee to interview applicants and to recommend those who should receive grants. Applicants have often been student film makers and Michael has been exceedingly generous with his time and expertise to help successful applicants with their film making. The society has awarded 4 grants so far, enabling 4 new film makers to gain valuable experience and to premiere their films before a local audience.

The second venture for the Society was to run a summer film festival over 5 afternoons and evenings at various local venues. Michael chaired a sub-committee to implement this objective and the society has now run three very successful festivals. In 2019 it screened 13 films in 3 venues and promoted 4 cinema themed quiz nights in local pubs. The festival was entirely free to those who came and has successfully brought cinema to a wide local audience.

Michael is an invaluable member of the society’s management committee, helping to make this society one of the best in the country.

Surrey County Council Chairman’s Volunteer Awards

What a privilege to have been able to nominate Graham Hodgson for this award. It was a real pleasure to accompany him and his wife, Lynne, to County Hall on 10th April 2019. His citation reads:

Graham has been an integral part of the Godalming community for nearly 40 years. He has been a Governor and the Chair of Governors of Godalming Junior School and Broadwater School, Committee Member of Godalming District Scout Executive, Water Advisor for River Wey British Canoeing and Assistant to the Royal British Legion Area Organiser to name but a few.

Most would recognise Graham as Major Hodgson, the Parade Marshal of the Town’s annual Remembrance Day parade, a role he has proudly carried out for the last 28 years, however his commitment to community life has not been limited to just one cause or purpose.

Graham has used his skills and knowledge to benefit a wide spectrum of our society. He has been a positive influence to the generations of young Godhelmians, especially in his capacity as a school governor and his active role as a canoeing coach with Godalming District Scout Canoe Club.

Graham and his wife, Lynne, with Chairman Tony Samuels, and Vice Chair Helyn Clack

Surrey County Council amends Jonathan Essex’s motion to “Declare a ‘Climate Emergency’ in Surrey”

At the last moment, immediately before today’s Full Council meeting, Cllr Goodman (Con) proposed an amendment to Cllr Essex’s (Green) motion, heavily watering it down. Deleted items are shown crossed through and additions are in bold italic.

Every Tory Councillor voted for the amendment and not in favour of declaring a climate emergency.

Full Council believes that:

Surrey County Council and all governments (national, regional and local) have a duty should seek to limit the negative impacts of Climate Breakdown, and local governments that recognise this should not wait for their national governments to change their policies.

The Council recognises the work that has already been done to tackle Surrey’s carbon footprint and it is important for the residents of Surrey to commit to carbon neutrality work towards reducing their carbon footprint as quickly as possible.

Bold climate change action can deliver economic benefits to Surrey in terms of valuable new jobs, essential economic savings and much needed market opportunities (as well as improved well-being for people worldwide).

The UK has a world-first Climate Change Act with a legally-binding target of an 80 per cent emissions cut by 2050, and shorter-term national carbon budgets ensuring vear-on-vear emissions cuts.

The Government has made a commitment to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it and we welcome the Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill, the first in over twenty years, which will be an essential step towards this goal. The Government has pledged to support increased biodiversity and thriving plants and wildlife and to continue to clean up our air and our water, creating a healthier environment.

Full Council to therefore resolves that:

1. Declare a ‘Climate Emergency’ in Surrey;

2. Pledge to make Surrey carbon-neutral by 2030 and strive to work with Surrey’s borough and district Councils in taking a leadership role, taking into account both production and consumption emissions;

1.          It will continue to work with Boroughs and Districts to reduce the Surrey-wide carbon footprint to meet the Government’s targets:

3.          Call on the Government to provide the powers and resources to make the 2030 target possible;

2..         It will continue to work with the Government on environmental issues and to agree any new powers to assist delivery of the carbon targets:

3.          It will be proactive in contributing to the many consultations that have been launched on reducing carbon emissions.

4.          Report to County Council within six months with the actions the Council will take to address this.

Full Council also notes that the Cabinet will receive the updated SCC Carbon and Energy Policy for 2020-2025 in December 2019, replacing the current 2015/19 policy.

Skillway

For over 20 years, Skillway is a small Godalming-based charity that provides a hands-on skill-based education for some teenagers who find school difficult. Skillway motivates and instils confidence, preparing these students for the world of work, for further training in specialist Colleges, or for Apprenticeships.


Meeting with General Manager, Mr Greg Bleach, and Trustee, Mrs Vivien Gillman.

Cllr Chris Botten – LibDem leader’s opposition speech to the County Council Budget.

All Lib Dem Councillors and most opposition voted against this budget which was passed 54:17 with 3 abstentions.

For the avoidance of doubt, I am setting out this morning the reasons
why I and my group will be voting against the budget papers as
presented to us; we understand the extreme difficulties the council
faces in producing a balanced budget, but we believe some core
principles have been elided and some significant failures to address
important issues are manifest.
In terms of the failures, they are as follows:
There is a failure to update our treasury management policies so as to
generate the best level of income from investment funds; as a result,
there are cuts in services which might otherwise be unnecessary. We
need to be up with the best at this and aiming for at least 6%; we are
far from there.
There is a failure to address our property portfolio in what is looking
like a failed Joint Venture so that residents see valuable property
empty, boarded up and wasting valuable resource. This is bad for the
council’s image with residents, misses key opportunities to support
funding for services and leaves an outward and visible sign of inaction
and neglect.
The budget is balanced by identifying savings in adult social care and
children’s services, the vast majority of which are invisible to
members, are identified as risky or very risky in terms of deliverability
and of which the impact on residents we cannot know. We cannot
sign off the unknown.
While we recognise the necessity, we cannot know how residents’
entitlements will be affected. We welcome the fact that there is now
a drive to improve our children’s services, but we cannot know how
this drive is balanced with very deep cuts. We are asked to trust; we
are asked to take a leap in the dark.

If we voted for this budget, we would be guessing at the impact on
residents and so cannot make an informed judgement. While it is
hard to know how the impacts could have been made known to us,
the cuts required are deeper and more wide ranging as a result of the
council’s failure to address the deep rooted problems which have
been identified over the last five years at least; the council’s
complacency, its wishful thinking, its banking on a chimerical bail-out,
and failure to address the treasury management and property
portfolio comes back to haunt us and make life so much harder.
We support the thrust of the proposals on SEND but have major
concerns about how families will experience the process; there is a
major issue of trust which families have in the fairness, timeliness and
appropriateness of SEND provision while so many children have to
travel outside Surrey and have to fight for their children’s
entitlements. We cannot take these matters on trust. When you
consult in future, please be specific about what you are consulting on.
We cannot support the closure of the children’s centres as currently
proposed. The failure to have a satellite in South Tandridge, the
closure of the Leatherhead centre which serves the very deprived
North Leatherhead population, indicates that the analysis of the
current provision is either hurried or flawed. More work should have
been done to configure the new proposals more sensitively, possibly
with a phased roll out.
We cannot support the budget because our back office costs are
among the most expensive in the country. We find it baffling that we are cutting services deep and paying £2.5m on interim management-
with so many appointments invisible to members and staff disappearing without explanation. That doesn’t mean we have a problem with the staff recruited- we don’t, we have a problem with the lack of transparency and process, and we have to explain it to residents. The problem is, we can’t.

We can’t support the budget because despite all my urging in this
chamber many times, residents are going to pay more for services
without the confidence that their quality will be properly assured.
I have asked for a charter which will promise that contracts will be
properly enforced, potholes will stay repaired and the council’s
services will earn a reputation for competence. Our Vision to 2030
needs to contain a more explicit compact so that residents can be
sure that their hard earned taxes will pay for safe, competent, class
leading services we can be proud of. We have a long way to go before
we can get to that.
We do not underestimate the challenges the council faces or the
crisis in local government funding; the austerity programme is
unnecessary and ideologically driven.
So we cannot collude with cuts we can’t understand, which are
deeper than they need be, and which will have impacts we cannot
know, let alone measure. We need a charter of promises for our
residents to guarantee them quality and trust.
This budget is a leap in the dark for a council with no parachute.

Lib Dems condemn essential services cuts and call for Surrey County Council to listen to its residents

January 22, 2019 2:39 PM
Cabinet papers* released yesterday by Surrey County Council reveal the outcomes of recent consultations carried out in relation to a number of essential services provided by the Council. The public consultations were based on a set of proposals for five service areas:
• Children’s centres
• Community recycling centres
• Concessionary bus travel
• Libraries and culture
• Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)
The consultation delivered over 28,000 responses from across the county, yet seem to have been somewhat overlooked in the recommendations to the Cabinet.

Cllr Chris Botten, Leader of the Liberal Democrats at Surrey County Council, said:
“The recommendation to close 31 of Surrey’s Children Centres is very saddening news. The consultation responses seem to have been completely ignored here, as nobody wants to see the centres closed. The centres provide support for families most in need, and now not everyone will be able to easily access them.

“Whilst it is positive that the recommendation surrounding Community Recycling Centres (CRCs) has been reviewed to now only close 4, instead of 6 as originally proposed, it is apparent that closing these 4 CRCs will not save that much money compared to the £2.5m being spent on external consultants. But one thing that is certain is that the closures will increase both queues at the sites that remain open, and increase fly tipping in the areas where the CRCs are closed.

“These cuts are a result of serious mismanagement of the Council and a lack of forward planning. I am also concerned that these cuts are not the end of the story, because the books are still not balanced. What services will be under threat next?”

NOTES

  • https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=120&MId=6322&Ver=4