Category Archives: Surrey County Council

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.

 

Election Pledge 2: Save Bagshot Library


Conservative Surrey County Council doesn’t like libraries. For over 30 years they have been trying to close them down. Their latest scheme to close libraries is called the Community Partnered Library (CPL) scheme. I covered this folly here.

Windlesham and Chobham were the first to lose out when the mobile library was scrapped. This is from SCC’s Cabinet meeting of 1 February 2011:

SCC Cabinet 1 Feb 11a

Then on 27 September 2011, the Cabinet agreed with these two cuttings:

SCC Cabinet 27 Sep 11a

SCC Cabinet 27 Sep 11b

This shows that SCC were planning to blackmail communities into taking over the running of their libraries on pain of closure.

At that time they drew up a second hitlist of libraries to suffer the same fate a year later:

SCC Cabinet 27 Sep 11c

I worked with the excellent pressure group, SLAM, Surrey Libraries Action Movement to oppose these closures. SLAM took SCC to a judicial review and won. Later SCC admitted that the CPL scheme wouldn’t actually save any money at all. This is from the Cabinet meeting of 24 July 2012:

SCC Cabinet 24 Jul 12

It was a poorly conceived policy and SCC missed every opportunity to consult properly with communities and find a solution. They decided to press on with the CPL scheme rather than lose face.

I visited Bagshot Library today to collect a library book I ordered and took a last look round because if another Conservative is elected to SCC from this area, its days are numbered.

Bagshot Library - soon to be history?

Bagshot Library – soon to be history?

Saving Bagshot Library

If elected on 2 May, my first task will be to save Bagshot Library. I will work with other county councillors who oppose the library’s closure. This could include the chairman of SLAM, Lee Godfrey, who is standing for election too, in Chertsey. 

In other counties, parish councils have taken over libraries from the county council, and the funding that goes with it. I would like to see Windlesham Parish Council do this in Bagshot. It would need to become a ‘Quality Council’ first and I’ll help them achieve this. This could secure the paid librarians who could work alongside volunteers. 

The building which Bagshot Library uses belongs to Surrey Heath Borough Council and is in a poor condition. There are many empty shop fronts on Bagshot High Street. I would help Bagshot Library negotiate a lower rent either from SHBC or from a landlord of a vacant shop in an even better location in Bagshot. 

Vote Labour on 2 May 

This is my second pledge: I will be a true ‘partner’ of Bagshot Library. I won’t allow the Tories to shut it down.

Richard Wilson

Labour Candidate for Surrey County Council 2 May 2013

Election Pledge 1: Supporting Families in Bagshot, Windlesham and Chobham


Families are under pressure. Household bills are rising fast and salaries are not keeping up. Schools are being squeezed and parents are concerned about their children’s education. Activities for young people of all ages are difficult to access in our area.

If elected on 2 May, I will be a champion for hard-pressed families.

School Uniforms

Local parents tell me that they worry about the cost of school uniforms. I will work with local schools and retailers to help reduce this. Schools can choose to use generic garments for most of their uniforms, which can be supplied cheaply because of economies of scale across the country. School specific items, such as blazer badges and ties, should be as inexpensive as possible.

I would like to see local retailers, such as the proposed new Waitrose store in Bagshot, help to keep school uniform costs down for parents. By working together with schools and businesses, I will make reducing the cost of new school uniforms and sports kit a priority as your county councillor.

Also, as pupils move through the education system, their previous items of school uniform should be available to the next generation. I will support schools in setting up pre-owned uniform exchanges. The prospect of finding the money for new school uniforms every summer is hugely stressful for many families. I want to end this major drain on household finances.

Play Areas

Children’s play areas are provided by either parish or borough councils. Parents in Chobham tell me that they are not impressed by the play area at the rec ground. One mother even said she feels forced to drive her children to Sunningdale to play.

Chobham Parish Council told me they are aware that it needs improvement and I believe that they take the issue seriously. However, play areas are usually funded by mandatory contributions from property developers and because Chobham is in the Green Belt the parish council does not receive much money this way.

Families in Chobham shouldn’t suffer poor facilities because of lack of developers’ funds. County councillors receive “members’ allocations” which they can use to help fund small local projects. I would use such funds to improve the Chobham play area so parents don’t have to drive their children elsewhere. This would reduce traffic and help local retailers since many families would walk down Chobham High Street to reach the play area.

In Windlesham and Bagshot there is more property development so the parish council there has access to funding for play areas. However, they have chosen to spend this money on hanging basket stands, but not hanging baskets, and a “bus shelter” which is more accurately called a “shelter” because buses won’t stop there! They also bought a new council noticeboard.

In the absence of support from the parish council, I would encourage local businesses to help set up and improve play areas in Bagshot and Windlesham.

Windlesham Field of Remembrance

The planned new pavilion at the Field of Remembrance would provide an ideal venue for youth groups such as the Scouts and Guides. It would be a good central location in Windlesham for a nursery too. Improved changing facilities would increase participation in football and cricket by young people. As I have stated before, I’m strongly in favour of this project.

I would support the fundraising for the new pavilion by asking county council staff to help me approach bodies such as the National Lottery and central government departments to obtain grants. Local philanthropists and businesses could be assured of the project’s potential by it having the full backing of the local county councillor, if I am elected.

Surrey County Council has a health scrutiny role and I would use this to lobby the new NHS Commissioning Board to bring back GP provision to Windlesham. Initially, this could be part-time in a room in the new pavilion. The rent would provide another regular source of income for the Field and help sustain it financially.

Making Activities Accessible to Young People

I recently addressed the borough council’s planning committee to obtain planning permission for the Terri Jayne School of Dance to set up in Lightwater. As county councillor, I will prioritise making activities like this accessible to young people and families in our area. I have also been involved in lobbying Education Secretary Michael Gove to stop selling off school playing fields, which I talk about in this film.

I am a long-time campaigner for sustainable transport. This includes creating safe cycle routes so that young people can get around without relying on their parents to drive them. The school run blights some roads at certain times of the day and I would like to see an alternative offered.

Labour: Standing Up For Families

A Labour vote in Bagshot, Windlesham and Chobham on 2 May 2013 is a vote for supporting families. Nowadays families and young people are under more pressure than ever. If you vote for me, you can trust me to be on the side of families.

Richard Wilson

Labour Candidate for Surrey County Council 2 May 2013

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