Category Archives: Surrey County Council

Surrey Tory Councillors Vote to Stifle Democracy


I was in the public gallery at today’s full council meeting of Surrey County Council in the London Borough of Kingston, just outside Surrey. The first hour was spent electing the new Tory chair of the council, unopposed, and general back-slapping.

Regular readers will be aware of my campaign to reverse the outrageous pay hike which Tory councillors awarded themselves last year. Interestingly, the outgoing chair of the council refused to accept his 20% pay hike and gave it to charity. This was covered in the press here: http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/surrey-county-council-chairman-david-7222891

I have written to the new chair, Cllr Sally Marks, to ask if she will be doing the same thing. Here is the email I sent:

email to scc chair

Tory councillors voted to stifle opposition's right to address council

Tory councillors voted to stifle opposition’s right to address council

After forcing through their money-grab last year, Tories on the council voted to change the constitution this year to give them the power to limit opposition motions at council meetings. The new chair refused to allow a vote on lowering the threshold number of signatures which petitions need to be debated at the council. The whole thing was forced through with Tory votes (and the one Green councillor) and there is nothing that the opposition councillors (Labour, Independent, Residents Association, Ukip and Lib Dem) can do about it. Last year was money-grab, this year it’s power-grab.

The leader of the council, Cllr David Hodge, was his usual snarling thin-skinned self. He gloated about the Tory win in the general election. He has put in place a plan (which was also waved through by the Tory majority) to rename the scrutiny committees “boards” and have them meet less often. The Tory chairs and vice-chairs will retain the full, controversially inflated, special responsibility allowances which they voted themselves last year.

The Communities Select Committee has been laughably renamed the “Residents Experience Board”. It retains the same remit but now has this management bingo style name which will be an insult to the users and employees of the council’s libraries and fire stations and other services. Labour’s Cllr Robert Evans pointed out to Cllr Hodge that he was leaving the council open to ridicule by renaming the committee like this. Hodge was visibly rattled and said, “Well, Labour didn’t win the election, um. Ha, maybe it was because they, um, didn’t have a Residents Experience, um, committee [sic]”.

These buffoons are what we are up against in Surrey. The council started at 10am and adjourned for lunch at 12.15pm until 2pm for more self-congratulatory back-slapping among the Tories. Meanwhile, social care, bus services and school places are being cut and our county’s roads are the most potholed in the country.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can take them on. I am considering setting up a campaign group to fight for residents of Surrey against reactionary Tory rule both at County Hall and Westminster. I don’t want to have meetings, not even one, just campaigning events. Let me know if you are in. Let’s give the Surrey Tory Party an “experience” they’ll never forget!

UPDATE 20 MAY

Cllr Marks has replied to my email:

email from sally marks

I don’t understand why being a Christian means she shouldn’t give back money obtained inappropriately from the council tax payers of Surrey. She “helps those in need” by voting herself a 20% pay rise and hiking council tax every year while support for those least able to pay it is slashed. “Those in need” have to take food out of the mouths of their children to pay for Cllr Marks’ allowances because her government cut Council Tax Support.

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth when religious Tories try to justify their greed and heartless disregard for the most disadvantaged in society.

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:

 

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