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.
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
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.
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?”
News today* has revealed that the cost of temporary officers at Surrey County Council is £2.5m. The news comes at a time when the Council are proposing a number of cuts to essential services, affecting Children’s Centres, bus subsidies, Community Recycling Centres and Libraries.
Prior to the appointment of new Chief Executive, Joanna Killian, in March 2018, the Council had just one contract for an interim member of staff. The contract bill for temporary and interim staff now stands at £2.5m.
Cllr Fiona White, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on the People, Performance and Development Committee said:
“I have two reactions to this very disturbing news: firstly, can the previous officers, cleared out so rapidly, have been so ineffective that emergency recruitment has been necessary? If so, how did that happen?
“Secondly, there has been no democratic accountability in the appointment of these people, who may be wonderful, but their appointments have bypassed the appropriate scrutiny committee and been agreed without member involvement. The total bill is extortionate, and makes the difference between keeping our children’s centres open and closing so many of them.”
Paddy Ashdown will be remembered as an inspirational man of conviction. I will remember his strong handshake and his support and wise advice in the 2017 General Election campaign.
December 20, 2018 11:09 AM
Responding to the publication of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services report into Surrey Fire and Rescue, Cllr Chris Botten, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group at Surrey County Council said:
“Yet again we read of a Surrey Service which has been judged Requires Improvement or Inadequate. Perhaps the report’s most troubling criticism is that the service doesn’t have a robust operational model and needs to ensure it has enough resources, (people and equipment) available to respond to risk in line with its risk management plan.
This concern chimes with issues raised directly with us by the FBU, and will worry residents of Surrey. I note that a response since the Inspection has been to recruit 30 full time firefighters with another 16 to be recruited by the Spring, which will give some comfort, but yet again residents are having to read that a vital service is not of the quality they have the right to expect.
I set the new Council Leader a challenge at the last council meeting, that Surrey County Council must be competent and trustworthy. The Fire Service is another area which fails that test. Cuts in service are having to be reversed because poor judgements were made and the Fire Fighters themselves not listened to.
Let’s hope that the new leadership at SCC turns this service round quickly- dedicated fire fighters and residents deserve no less.”
It was a pleasure and a privilege to have been invited by the Mayor of Waverley to mark the occasion of the unveiling of a new war memorial on Milford Common to commemorate the Canadian soldiers based there during both World Wars.
The engraving reads, “In gratitude to all Canadian soldiers based in the area during WWI and WWII. We will remember them.”
History of the Canadians and Milford/WitIey Common
Canadians had an integral role alongside the British and the Allies during the Great War. Throughout 1914-1918, about 7 percent of the Canadian population served in the Great War. The Canadian Army entered and fought as part of the British Empire’s Dominions and Colonies. As such, Canadians spent a significant amount of time in various areas of Britain, including Surrey, before heading to the front.
In January 1915, orders were issued for the setting up of a camp on Witley Common for training British and Canadian soldiers before they were sent to France. The camp straddled the Portsmouth and Haslemere roads, extending into Milford Common and beyond to Bowlhead Green. The Surrey countryside provided an ideal landscape for artillery training, with rolling hills, sandy soil, as well as good roads and villages. The camp provided the soldiers with housing, medical attention, recreation facilities, and shops, also known as ‘Tin-Towns,’ found on the edge of the camp. Part of Milford Common was also used as a baseball pitch for the troops and one of baseball’s most famous players, Babe Ruth, played there.
Today Witley Camp is the site of archaeological digs, where finds are revealing more about the life of soldiers during the war, including items such as Canadian hockey pucks. In fact during WWI the Canadians played ice hockey on Broadwater Lake.
During the Second World War the camp was purely for the training and housing of Canadian Troops. The camp was rebuilt on Rodborough Common for WWII and expanded to the size of a small village where it contained a chapel, hospital, parade ground, garrison theatre and brick buildings for living quarters. Three Canadian soldiers arrested a German fighter pilot shot down in the area in January 1944.
How fortunate is our community to have the time and talents of the Godalming Trust! The Trust organises Heritage Open Days and casts a watchful eye over developments in our Town. They also give Civic Design Awards for buildings that are worthy of note.
This year it was my privilege to accept a Godalming Trust Civic Design Award for Boarden Bridge.
The bridge is a delight and is thanks to co-operation between Surrey County Council and Godalming Town Council and funded by a gift by Zadie Caudle on behalf of the Peter Caudle Memorial Trust.
The Boarden Bridge was designed and made by Richard Northrup of Barnwood Carpentry and will be enjoyed by townsfolk young and old for many years to come.