Category Archives: Surrey County Council

Free education to end in Surrey


Tory Surrey County Council has a long record of failing residents and wasting their council tax money. Now they have announced something which Tory politicians have craved for a hundred years: an end to free education for all children.

The blundering leader of the council, Cllr David Hodge, recently gave this speech and said, “We can no longer guarantee school places for every school child in Surrey.”

A section of the speech - click to enlarge

A section of the speech – click to enlarge

I wrote to the Surrey Advertiser about this in October.

Tory Surrey County Council raised our council tax by the maximum allowed, for three years in succession. They are closing all the remaining care homes for the elderly. Our roads are crumbling and packed with traffic due to the lack of proper public transport. Librarians are being sacked. Community funding was cut by £300,000 to fund a massive pay hike for 50 Tory councillors.

In one of the wealthiest counties in a wealthy country, Surrey has become a right-wing Tory experiment: services cut, taxes hiked and more cash for councillors and the chief executive.

As the son of two teachers, I think this latest move, the ending of free education, is Hodge’s most callous yet. Conservatives are content to force families who can afford it to pay for private education and leave those who can’t without schooling. I was state educated and it taught me to live alongside and respect rich and poor alike. The ideologues on Surrey County Council do not want the next generation in Surrey to learn this.

 

Threat to Surrey’s Care Homes


16 October 2014 – for immediate release

Threat to Surrey’s Care Homes

The six remaining residential care homes for older people that are still maintained by Surrey County Council (SCC) are under threat, including Longfield in Cranleigh. At the SCC Cabinet on 21 October councillors will be asked to begin the process of closing them down and transferring hundreds of elderly vulnerable residents to privately run care homes.

Labour’s Richard Wilson said, “As life expectancy increases, we need to think more about how older people are cared for. We need decent, dignified, safe care for our mums and dads. I hope Surrey County Council are not considering washing their hands of this responsibility. Moving residents will be very traumatic for them, even the prospect of their homes closing will cause great distress to many vulnerable people. I am saddened that after raising our Council Tax repeatedly and awarding councillors bumper pay rises the Council claim they cannot find the money to maintain and improve these homes.”

If the Cabinet follows the recommendation next Tuesday, a consultation process will start and the final decision will be taken next February. SCC owns 30 care homes for older people but the running of 24 have been transferred to the private sector. The remaining 6 are:

6 care homes

In addition to the permanent residents, in the table above, there are around 89 “respite” residents who live there temporarily to give their carers at home some time off.

Around 500 staff work in the care homes.

The GMB union will be lobbying councillors on Tuesday 21 October from 1pm outside the front of County Hall , Kingston ahead of the cabinet meeting at 2pm.

ENDS

Note 1: Richard Wilson is Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Guildford constituency, which includes Cranleigh.

Richard Wilson

Richard Wilson

Note 2: This issue is item 16 on the Cabinet agenda for 21 Oct: http://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=120&MId=3690&Ver=4

Note 3: The table above comes from this document: http://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/documents/s17356/item%2016%20-%20SCC%20In%20House%20Residential%20Care%20Homes%20for%20Older%20People.pdf

 

 

First Victory Declared in Battle to Reverse Councillors’ Pay Hikes


Press Statement from Richard Wilson, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Guildford

First Victory Declared in Battle to Reverse Councillors’ Pay Hikes

15 July 2014 – for immediate release

Labour activists in Surrey are today declaring a victory in their campaign to reverse the massive pay hikes which leading Conservative county councillors voted themselves. In May, the Tory majority group on the council voted to ignore their Independent Remuneration Panel and hike their own Special Responsibility Allowances. Later that month, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Guildford, Richard Wilson, started a petition which thousands of residents have signed on Surrey County Council’s own website to reverse the hikes. Today, the council’s Leader, Cllr David Hodge, issued a personal statement at the start of the full council meeting where he complained about the public not understanding his position but agreed to reduce his and his deputy’s allowance to the level recommended by the IRP.

Richard Wilson said, “Thank you to everyone who signed my petition. We have forced Cllr Hodge into this U-turn against his will. We are declaring victory today but our victory is not yet complete so I ask people to continue signing my petition. I aim to reverse all of these pay hikes, not just the Leader’s and Deputy Leader’s 60% hikes.

“Until today, Hodge defended his 60% pay hike as the minimum necessary to do his job. If this is true, then surely he will now resign since his new lower allowance will not be enough. Hodge has been slammed by Conservative MPs, ministers and local parties. The public have spoken with one voice in supporting my campaign to reverse his ill-judged money-grab. His reputation has been irreparably damaged by this and I call on him to consider his position.”

Ends

Note 1. Leader, Cllr Hodge, will now receive an SRA of £35,548pa, up from £27,000 last year but less than the £43,000 he previously said was the minimum he could accept. This is on top of his councillor’s basic allowance of £12,418pa.

Note 2. Richard Wilson’s petition is here: http://petitions.surreycc.gov.uk/moneygrab/

Note 3. Richard Wilson is on 01483 511272

 

 

Richard Wilson

Parliamentary Candidate

Guildford Labour Party

Twitter | Facebook | Blog | Website | YouTube | Donate

 

Promoted by Alex Wilks on behalf of Richard Wilson, both of 9b Martyr Road, Guildford, Surrey GU1 4LF

Surrey County Council “acutely aware” of the crisis they have caused in our schools


The Surrey Advertiser has covered the overcrowding in Surrey’s infant classes which came to light in my recent research:

Surrey Ad 20 June on class sizes

The Tory council say they are “acutely aware” of the problem. They should have been “acutely aware” that this crisis was going to happen years ago and should have done something about it. Surrey’s youngest pupils are suffering due to the council’s neglect of their responsibilities. This probably does not affect many Tory councillors’ families, who will be able to afford private schools for their grandchildren.

By awarding themselves 60% pay hikes, the Tory leadership of Surrey County Council have added insult to injury to the parents and pupils of Surrey.

Tell Surrey County Council to give it back!


Recently Conservative councillors on Surrey County Council voted to ignore an independent remuneration panel and award themselves massive pay rises of up to 60%. The entire independent panel resigned.

The Tory Group have difficulty keeping their councillors loyal and they are riven by infighting. Last year they created four new “Cabinet Associate” positions. These are non-jobs which allow the Conservative leadership to make patronage payments of £10,000 per annum to Tory councillors (on top of all the other payments which councillors receive). This was raised to £12,500, against the independent panel’s recommendation too.

It is staggering that Conservative councillors are so out of touch with Surrey Council Tax payers. Our roads are covered in larger and larger potholes. There is a school place shortage. Families across the county are struggling to make end meet thanks to the Council raising Council Tax by the maximum amount allowed, for the third time in a row.

A few months ago, Labour’s Cllr Robert Evans proposed a motion to Surrey County Council to stop paying poverty pay and ensure all council employees received the Living Wage. The Conservative Group all voted against it. This time they have decided to divert taxpayers’ money straight into their own pockets.

As usual, Conservatives are standing up for the wrong people. However, even here in Surrey we can take a stand against them. Please sign my petition to demand they return the money they have grabbed.

Your signature only counts once you click on the link which is automatically emailed to you. If you don’t receive it straight away check your Junk folder.

Tory Surrey County Council is happy to pay poverty wages to its employees, allow our roads to crumble and hike our Council Tax. It is an insult to the people of Surrey that they are grabbing our money too.

Sign here to put an end to this money-grab.

Surrey’s Small Libraries Are Under Threat


I attended the Communities Select Committee of Surrey County Council today. The agenda included a progress report on their so-called Community Partnered Library policy whereby paid staff are replaced totally by volunteers. I filed the following written public question:

What is the percentage change in the public’s usage of libraries, ie number of books borrowed per month, which have become Community Partnered Libraries since they became CPLs? How does this change compare with the other libraries in the network which have not become CPLs?

Here is the answer I received. Public question – Mr Wilson

I was allowed to ask one supplementary question and this is what I asked:

Thank you for answering my question. I would like to ask a supplementary question. I note that after becoming Community Partnered Libraries, the six CPLs’ issuing of books has declined at twice the rate of other comparable libraries. Your answer says that “low and declining use” was the reason for choosing the first 10 CPLs. Is it actually the case that 5 of the 10 had rising  usage?

This included Bagshot, my local library, which seems to be the least advanced towards CPL status of the 10. Will the last be the first? Will Bagshot Library be the first to close? Your policy includes closing libraries where volunteers cannot be found. The Friends of Bagshot Library, a group of 40 to 50 volunteers, set up Bagshot Community Library Limited and were ready to take over the library. Item 9 Annex 1 on this meeting’s documents says that they have expressed concern about their capacity to undertake the task. What is the source of this statement? Isn’t it actually the case that they do have the capacity but are concerned about the draft contract and have been cut off by the lack of communication from this council and undermined by Windlesham Parish Council?

How many firm commitments have Windlesham Parish Council received from volunteers? Finally, how would the members of this committee feel if Bagshot Library closes due to your policy? Will you feel it like a bereavement as many local library users would? Would you resign if that were to happen? Or is that the objective of your policy?

Addressing (not answering!) my questions were council officers, Cllr Helyn Clack (the cabinet member responsible), Cllr Denise Saliagopoulos (chair of the committee and former cabinet member responsible until she was sacked after allegations of financial misconduct), and Cllr Mike Goodman (Con, Bagshot, Windlesham and Chobham and chair of Windlesham Parish Council).

Firstly, they did not deny that some of the 10 hitlisted libraries were increasing usage when they were targeted for this treatment. Nobody would say that Bagshot Library will not close or even that if it did they would care. Cllr Goodman would not reveal how many volunteers they had found so far (I hear it’s fewer than 10) but he did say a poster had gone up. Don’t laugh, that’s quite an achievement for our parish council, it was probably the result of many long meetings and brain-storming sessions.

It is so sad that Bagshot Library is suffering because of political manoeuvring by Conservative Windlesham Parish Council. I asked that Bagshot be removed from the CPL programme and returned to the supported network of libraries. It is obviously not going to work as a CPL and this is the only way to save it.

Disturbingly, they could not rule out adding to the number of small libraries under threat by the CPL scheme, including Lightwater, Frimley Green and Ash. This policy could devastate library users across Surrey Heath and Surrey as a whole.

The committee meeting was several hours long with many other interesting points. Please view these clips for a taster:

 

Strange times for Bagshot Library


Tonight I attended a public meeting about the future of Bagshot Library. Here is the well-hidden announcement of the meeting. I saw a fleeting reference to a meeting about Bagshot Library in some Windlesham Parish Council (WPC) minutes weeks ago but my enquiries drew a blank until I googled it up eventually. This was the first thing I didn’t understand: why call a public meeting and not publicise it?

The background to this issue is important, so if you are not familiar with it please read this first.

The meeting was chaired by new county councillor Mike Goodman. Two senior Surrey County Council (SCC) officers were there: Peter Milton and Rose Wilson. In the audience were other officers from SCC and WPC. There were about 25-30 people there in total. I recognised about half of them. There were community activists from Bagshot, parish and borough councillors and some members of the public. So far so good, although I don’t know why my stalker, Tory councillor for Mytchett and Deepcut, Paul Deach was there. He plodded about the room pointing his pistol-shaped microphone in people’s faces. He does this sort of thing during council meetings too. I think having a dressed-down troll getting in everyone’s way does not help. I know he needs to make a living and the income he gets from his Tory propaganda website (which publishes abuse about me) is probably useful, but meetings should have a certain decorum.

The meeting started with a long introduction by Cllr Goodman. It was obvious that the audience contained people with different levels of awareness about the Community Partnered Library (CPL) scheme and varying degrees of support or opposition to it. A ten minute speech extolling the virtues of the CPL policy in a very one-sided way seemed to serve to wind up those opposed to it and confuse those with little knowledge of it. This, along with the first couple of answers from officers to written questions, appeared to be very defensive. I thought the general mood of the audience was ready to be persuaded, but in need of information and reassurance. The impression we got was that there was something to hide or that was going to be inflicted on us.

Peter Milton said, “Surrey County Council has made a decision.” referring to the CPL policy. Fair enough. I knew that, but did everyone? He said, “The objective is to keep Bagshot Library open.” OK, I’ll believe that for the time being, for the purposes of this discussion. I still didn’t know why we were having this meeting, however. Were they consulting us? Didn’t feel like it. Were they informing us? Not so far.

I asked if there was any way paid staff could be retained and whether they agreed that libraries need librarians. I hoped they would use this opportunity to explain the CPL model to the audience because I thought many didn’t understand how fundamental it is. Actually, I got an interesting answer I didn’t expect instead. It is possible for paid staff to be retained, Warlingham Library have done this by getting their parish council to fund it. Bagshot staff costs are about £12,000 pa so this could easily be done by Windlesham Parish Council.

The chair was keeping a very tight rein on questions and supplementary questions, which eventually proved counter-productive. The dam of discontent broke when representatives of the Friends of Bagshot Library took over the floor to make their case. They already have 45 volunteers on their books (who already help at the library) and SCC haven’t taken up their offer to take over the library. This was not adequately defended by the officers and the tension between the groups was obvious. It seems inevitable that this would blow up during the meeting and explained the previous defensiveness. So why were we there? Couldn’t they have discussed and negotiated between themselves? Even now, I don’t understand.

I then asked about how vulnerable groups will be catered for. This was the crux of the judicial review which SCC lost to SLAM. The answer was that SCC will provide initial and recurrent training to volunteers and some training would be ‘cascaded’. Of course, this expense would not be necessary if paid staff were retained.

Lightwater Library was mentioned too. It is on the second list of libraries to be targeted, along with nearby Frimley Green and Ash Libraries. I use both Bagshot and Lightwater Libraries. Lightwater’s building is much nicer and they have the same librarian, rather than a rotating one, and no self-service machine. The self-service machines are awful. They are more complicated and less intuitive than Airbuses. Someone asked about what happens when they break, the self-service machines not Airbuses. Good question.

So what was it all about? Have SCC decided to form a new steering group and cut the Friends of Bagshot Library out of the equation? Has a “decision been taken” to close Bagshot Library and this was intended to soften us up? Did they hope we would all sign up as volunteers there and then? Did they hope to persuade and inspire us about the future of the library? Perhaps they did. Perhaps they’re not used to persuading or inspiring people. To be fair, they don’t have to do it very much. This is a safe Tory area and they don’t need to try to talk people round to their point of view very often. Maybe that is why it wasn’t effective, I didn’t even realise I was being wooed.

Maybe I’m being too cynical. The stated aim was to find a way forward for Bagshot Library. I found one: since SCC have “taken a decision” to stop running the library, the parish council should take it over. The Friends of Bagshot Library should run it. WPC should provide funding for paid staff and recoup the money from SCC in lieu of the reduced training costs. The volunteers should work alongside paid staff and also fundraise to improve the building and offer more services. This would take leadership and commitment to achieve. People would have to be persuaded and inspired. If this plan is chosen, I will be fully available to provide any help I can to get it working.

Would I volunteer in a library without paid staff? No. I would never work for free so that a paid worker can be done out of their job. The CPL plan is ideological and I have my ideological limits too.

It was a strange evening and I’ll readily admit I’m not sure that my analysis is correct. If anyone has any other theories, particularly if you were there, please post them below.

 

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