More cuts to come, have your say!

As you will read in this link, the Conservative Government has cut the core grant to the Conservative-led Surrey County Council by £200million since 2010. SCC has already made £500million reduction in expenditure on vital services and now it seeks to “save” a further £85million expenditure over the next year and has launched a public consultation on this range of services:

  • Family Resilience: Children’s Centres
  • Concessionary bus travel
  • Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
  • Libraries and Cultural Services
  • Community Recycling Centres

Have your say online and/or at:

Wednesday 12 December 10am – 12pm Wilfrid Noyce Community Centre (Wyatt Room)
Crown Court car park, Godalming GU7 1DY

Lib Dems, Labour and Green Party and some members of the Residents Association have consistently voted against cuts. But even combined and numbering 17 we are massively out-voted

Surrey Lib Dems highlight £196 MILLION Tory cuts plan at County Hall

May 1, 2018 12:02 PM
Liberal Democrat county councillors have expressed their concern after it was revealed that Surrey County Council is planning to reduce spending on services by nearly £200m by the end of 2019/20. The figures were released in a report to the Council’s Cabinet earlier this week, alongside the Conservative-administration’s decision to hire consultants, at an undisclosed sum, to assist with the County Council’s “programme management and change capacity” project.
Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of Surrey County Council Liberal Democrats. said:
“I am deeply concerned about the adverse impact on vital council services that would result from a spending reduction of almost £200m over the next two years. Surrey residents rely on the County Council for well-maintained roads, recycling centres, libraries, children’s centres and youth services. These services are already underfunded and further cuts and spending reductions are on the way.
“The Conservative-administration failed to act upon the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA) report “Financial Resilience Review – Surrey County Council (Dec 2016)”, which it commissioned, stating that the County Council lacked a “credible cost reduction plan” and highlighted the County Council’s “rapidly declining reserves”. The County Council’s belated realisation that it is facing a financial crisis means that even more drastic cuts are being proposed than would have otherwise been necessary, which will reduce essential services for Surrey residents.
“Consultants have been hired for an undisclosed sum by the Conservative-administration to assist with the County Council’s “programme management and change capacity” project. This is a sign of desperation by the Conservative-administration to help them solve the County Council’s severe financial problems but it remains to be seen whether this will be value for money.
“The Leader of the Council blames poor financial settlements from the government for the financial position of his administration, yet every Conservative MP in Surrey voted for the most recent settlement. Furthermore, the administration has wasted money on maintaining dozens of empty county council-owned buildings across the county, as well as spending hundreds of millions on investing in commercial properties outside of Surrey – money which could have been used to resurface Surrey’s crumbling roads and footways. Investing in road resurfacing would save money on expensive pot hole repairs and claims by residents for damaged vehicles.
“The County Council wasted over £1m on its deeply unpopular free “Surrey Matters” magazine over a number of years and still spends £2m a year on “communications”. It has failed to use new digital technology to transform services to improve efficiency, and instead finds itself raiding ever-dwindling reserves each year in order to balance the budget.
“I am calling for the Conservative-administration to protect services for Surrey residents by using, selling or renting its empty buildings, stopping spending millions of pounds on commercial properties outside Surrey and by improving the efficency of the Council through the use of IT and new digital technology.”
hazel dorking 2
A copy of the CIPFA report can be found here:
The County Council’s latest budget report can be found here:

Drug and alcohol detox plans must change, say Surrey Lib Dems

Liberal Democrat county councillors in Surrey have expressed concern that proposed changes to the arrangements for drug and alcohol detoxification will make it more difficult for those trying to beat addiction.

Surrey County Council is currently consulting on proposals that include the closure of the in-patient facility at Windmill House in Chertsey, leaving only one in-patient bed for the whole of the county – which will be located outside of Surrey. Other patients will be required to attend day centres in either Guildford or Redhill, and will have to return to their homes in the evenings and at weekends in a programme called “ambulatory detoxification.”

The consultation, which ends on 20th May 2018, follows a reduction in the Public Health budget for adult substance misuse treatment services of 24% from April 2018, following cuts approved by Conservative councillors at the Budget meeting in February.

Cllr Angela Goodwin, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Health & Social Care, said today:

“These cuts will directly impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our community. It is simply incredible to think that a county the size of Surrey will be left with only one in-patient bed to cover a population of 1.1 million – and it won’t even be in Surrey! We urge all those affected to respond to the current public consultation to make clear that these proposals are not acceptable”.

Cllr Chris Botten, Liberal Democrat county councillor for Caterham Hill, added:

“Our concern is that patients who have made the huge decision to submit themselves to a detox programme need to be away from the locations and situations which they associate with their drinking or drug use and that is why in-patient detox beds are so important. We feel that the clinical outcomes will be poorer and patients will find their lives have got even harder. That’s why all service users and patients should make their voices heard as part of the consultation to make sure that Surrey County Council listens and then changes these plans”.


A copy of the consultation can be found here:

The future of Green Oak School

Tonight, I attended the “consultation” meeting about the future of Green Oak School.

Wikipedia describes “Public Consultation” as, “a regulatory process by which the public’s input on matters affecting them is sought. Its main goals are in improving the efficiency, transparency and public involvement”. Michael Goodridge, the Chair of Governors from 2011-2015, asked a pertinent question on this point, “Is this a true consultation?”

His question wasn’t answered.

It was standing room only. Parents and teachers and members of the community asked questions of the SCC officers and the Diocesan representative. I think it would be fair to say that people did not think their questions were answered. But then these Officers were just doing their job while the decision makers, Council Leader, David Hodge, and the Bishop and the Regional Schools Commissioner must have had something better to do, because they were absent.

My question was, “This room is packed full of people who care about their children, this school and this community. But, the shame is the absence of those who make the decisions. Were they invited? Would they have come?”

My question was not answered.

Many parents asked the officers to name the alternative schools for their children.

Their question was not answered.

Teachers asked why SCC has told prospective parents who do choose Green Oak to go elsewhere.

Their question was not answered.

The County Council is not like the old Education Authority which ran most of the schools and took the strategic decisions.  The Regional Education Commissioner has mandated that the school must be part of a Multi Academy Trust, or it must close.  The County Council is barred by legislation from operating a Multi Academy Trust. So, the Council has no option but to initiate a closure process, sorry, I mean “consultation”.

The Government and the Regional Schools Commissioner have created a perfect storm for the Diocese and the County and Green Oak school to navigate.

I don’t suppose many of you have heard of Dominic Herrington – the Regional Schools commissioner for South East England and South London. He is unelected. He is responsible for making decisions about academies and free schools in Bexley, Brighton and Hove, Bromley, Croydon, East Sussex, Greenwich, Hampshire , Isle of Wight, Kent, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Lewisham, Medway, Merton, Portsmouth, Richmond upon Thames, Southampton, Southwark, Surrey, Sutton, Wandsworth and West Sussex.

Perhaps he is just too busy to visit Green Oak and see the school for himself.

What do you do if you are caught in a perfect storm? You try any and every means of rescue and this is what we all must do.

Fill in an objection to the proposed closure of the school at:

Lib Dems raise concerns over future of Children’s Centres in Surrey

Liberal Democrat county councillors have raised concern over the future of Children’s Centres in Surrey. Currently there are 58 centres across the county, providing services such as childcare, play and learning sessions, parenting courses, employment support and information and guidance for low-income families. Surrey County Council is currently consulting on a new model for delivering its “Early Help” services, with the aim of saving at least £9.7m.

Cllr Chris Botten, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Children & Education, said:

“Our Children’s Centres do so much for families and children which is not well publicised, and Surrey should be proud of them. They provide essential guidance and support for families with challenges and make a real difference to their lives. I will be doing all I can to ensure that we can save as much of the skill and commitment of the staff and ensure that they continue to make a difference in the future.”

Cllr Stephen Cooksey, Liberal Democrat county councillor Dorking South & the Holmwoods, added:

“My local Children’s Centre in Goodwyns plays a vital role in providing services to an area of great need within Surrey. It supports local families in a variety of ways and is a vital resource which should be protected. However the proposals currently being discussed could mean a loss of at least 40% of its funding. The County Council needs to reassure local service users, and service providers, that this is a genuine consultation as to how it can better serve the needs of local families at a time when spending is tight, rather than just an academic exercise to justify painful cuts”.


The report on Children’s Centres and Early Help discussed at Cabinet on Tuesday 27th February 2018, can be found here:

Financial crisis worsens at County Hall as Tories ask Surrey residents to pay more for less

Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council have criticised the Conservative-administration for budget proposals containing £54m of further cuts to services and a 6% council tax rise. The budget recommendations will be approved by the Council’s Conservative Cabinet on Tuesday 30th January, and then by the County Council on Tuesday 6th February.

Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council, said today:

“This budget contains drastic cuts to services such as libraries, road maintenance, services for children and families as well as cuts to support for people with learning disabilities. They come on top of the unpopular cuts which have already been made to services including highways, community recycling centres and support to vulnerable people. It is a failure by central government to provide adequate funding to the County Council and a failure of the Conservative-administration to get to grips with the financial problems at County Hall.

“Although I am pleased that the Conservative-administration, unlike last year, has not tried to raise council tax by 15%, they are proposing a 6% rise as this is the maximum increase possible without triggering a referendum. This is still unaffordable for many Surrey residents, particularly for those on fixed incomes. The Conservative-administration has been forced into proposing this rise due to the financial crisis at County Hall and the shortfall in government funding for essential services such as adult social care.

“Adult social care requires extra funding from central government, funding which the Leader of the Council has failed to secure and that the four cabinet ministers who are MPs in Surrey have failed to deliver. Whilst it is good news that the County Council will be able to retain 100% of its business rates growth in 2018/19, this pilot scheme should be extended beyond just one year. If it does end at the end of 2018/19, the County Council will be facing an even more difficult financial situation as the adult social care precept, which allows the County Council to raise council tax by 3%, will also end leading to a worsening financial position for the County Council in 2019/20.

“However, the Conservative administration needs to take its share of the blame for the financial crisis at County Hall. In December 2016, the Conservative-administration commissioned and paid almost £25,000 for a report written by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy which contained many criticisms of the County Council’s financial position. It stated that “the Council’s financial plans are not robust and it is at risk of becoming financially unsustainable” and that the council’s financial position was “extremely worrying”. Given the financial mess at County Hall, I think the report was entirely correct in its analysis and that its warnings have not been heeded.

“I welcome the County Council’s plans to use capital receipts to fund innovations and transformation projects for essential public services. By using technology and other innovations, services can be improved and costs reduced which would place the County Council on a sounder financial footing. However, these new rules on capital receipts were introduced in 2016 and the Conservative-administration should have taken advantage of them then and therefore avoided some of the painful cuts to services for Surrey residents.

“With regard to the many empty council owned buildings across the county, the County Council has failed to utilise them properly, instead letting them decay and incurring hundreds of thousands of pounds of costs keeping them empty, in some cases for over a decade. In just one financial year, 2016/17, £307,464 was spent on maintaining 20 vacant buildings. This is a straightforward waste of money and a missed opportunity to bring in capital receipts or rental income which would have improved the County Council’s financial position.

“Because of the financial crisis at County Hall, the Conservative-administration is now gambling about £200m of pounds of council tax payers’ money on purchasing commercial property, such as warehouses and office blocks, hundreds of miles away from Surrey. This is risky and will not promote economic growth within the county as so many of the properties are so far away.

“The Conservative-administration has repeatedly assured residents that income from commercial property will be reinvested in services but it has recently earmarked £3.8m of this income to be spent on purchasing more property. Every day, the County Council is acting more like a property investment company rather than a local authority. Even the Government, in a recent piece of guidance, had to remind councils like Surrey County Council that “local authorities need to remember that their prime duty is to deliver statutory services for local residents” – this is something that the Conservative-administration has clearly forgotten.

“This budget is a bad deal for Surrey residents, who are being asked to pay more for less. The County Council’s own survey of residents revealed that only 37% of people believed that the County Council provided value for money. Surrey residents should not have to pick up the bill or lose essential services because of the failures of this Conservative-administration”.


A link to the Council’s budget papers can be found here (Item 10):

The CIPFA report can be found here:

DCLG guidance on the role of local authorities can be found here:

A link to the County Council’s resident survey can be found here:

The FOI document containing information on the cost of empty buildings can be found here:

Godalming will be losing its Police Counter service

The Surrey Advertiser has reported that due to “budget challenges” Godalming will be losing its Police Counter service (currently operating from the Waverley Borough Offices).

My good colleague, former police officer and Crime Prevention officer, John Robini, says,

“I have worked closely with the community of Waverley for more than 40 years. Waverley has one of the eldest populations in Surrey. This means many residents are reluctant to drive far, or use modern technology. By closing the only front counter in Waverley any resident will now have to travel to bigger centres with their problems of traffic and parking. The Police in this country “police by consent”. If they continue to withdraw from public contact then not only will they risk losing this consent but how do they receive valuable information from the community? The only contact will be as a victim or as a perpetrator and no longer will police be seen as a friendly and helpful organisation. This is a retrograde step, one only concerned in saving money and nothing to do with improving policing in the community”.

I agree with John. Do you? Write to your Police and Crime Commissioner and tell him (


Save the Surrey Performing Arts Library!

Save the Surrey Performing Arts Library which is under threat of closure by Surrey County Council.

The Library, which is currently based near Dorking at Denbies Wine Estate, houses a truly unique collection of music, theatre, orchestral and dance materials available for public loan. Surrey residents have been given just two weeks to respond to the County Council’s online consultation.

The Liberal Democrats have launched a petition to save the Surrey Performing Arts Library:

“We value the unique service provided by Surrey’s Performing Arts Library and call upon Surrey County Council to retain the service, with staff, on one site and in its current format for the benefit of all Surrey residents”.

True measure of society?

Letter to Surrey Advertiser dated 15th September 2017
In your front page report last week about the return of parking fees for the holders of blue badges David Beaman, Chair of South West Surrey Disabled Alliance Network, said that he was, “disappointed but not surprised” that Waverley Borough Council’s Executive Committee decided on 5th September after no debate to approve the introduction of parking charges for blue badge holders.
I am also disappointed, maybe not surprised but certainly sad that we have come to this, or more exactly that this is what a council dominated by one party can do in our name.
Waverley is following the lead of our national government. A government which is failing in its duties to the disabled, in education, work and housing, in health, transport and social security. One million disabled people now have to live without the social care they need to wash, cook, or leave the house. Last week the UN described the treatment of disabled people in this country as a “human catastrophe”.
There is a public outcry and I add my voice. We must speak out to those we have elected “to do unto others as they would have done unto themselves”. Especially, in these times of inequality, of the widening gap between the richest and the poorest, of food banks, pensioner poverty, student debt, of zero hours contracts, we must heed the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”.
If this is the true measure of our Waverley Borough Councillors, would you give these elected representatives your vote next time?