Council Tax Rise and Cuts to Services

THESE ARE MY VIEWS AND NOT AN OFFICIAL STATEMENT

You will have heard and seen a great deal in the last couple of weeks about Surrey’s Conservative administration proposing to hold a referendum on 4th May about an increase of 15% in Council Tax. You may have also noticed some cuts being made to services, such as street lights and recycling centres, and I would like to tell you why.

Let’s be clear from the start that no Conservative Councillor willingly raises Council Tax or cuts services and that includes me. So we have been working relentlessly to make efficiency savings and deliver good value for money but as quick as we make up ground we are knocked back and I want to be honest and open with the people I represent. Eventually if you keep making cuts it stops become efficiency savings and starts becoming cuts to services.  I am supporting the referendum not because I believe the residents should pay extra but because I believe we are at a crossroads and I believe you should have say in the future of Surrey. That’s my reason for writing this post and I will continue to repeat this message in person over the next coming months.

Since 2010 the Conservatives who run Surrey County Council have managed to take £450 million out of the cost of delivering essential services. Without these savings, delivered in the face of opposition from other parties, the budget issues we face would be much greater. We have also identified an additional £250m of saving up to 2020 but even with these savings we are being left with a massive financial shortfall in this period. I believe it is time to let the public know what is happening and give them a choice.

Two other major things have happened since 2010: demand for Social Care Services has increased by over £24m per year and yet the annual grant to Surrey County Council from Central Government has been cut by £170 million  since 2010. Also they calculated that we need £25m through the Better Care Fund, (which is at the heart of new ASC funding), then after further adjustments we have ended up with £1.5m per year.

So what are Social Care Services? Adult Social Care delivered by the County Council includes the assistance that enables elderly people to leave hospital and stay safely at home with support. This helps the NHS by keeping beds clear for serious cases.

Social Care means looking after adults with Learning Disabilities, enabling them to lead fulfilling lives in the community. Surrey County Council cares for 8 times as many adults with Learning Disabilities as any other council and I for one believe that this is a job that needs to be done well and with generosity of spirit. Yet £39 million of funding annually has been withdrawn by central government for this role and it has to be raised through Council Tax.

Social Care means Safeguarding children and bringing up almost on thousand  children who are growing up in the care of the council. As corporate parents, we aim to bring up these children as if they were our own. That must be right.

So we are asking Surrey’s residents to help us. That means paying £15.80 per month in Council Tax on an average Band D house to ensure that the vulnerable are cared for. It could be your Mum, Dad, Niece, Nephew or Grandparent that needs this help. It could be a child from your street that needs protection.

Even with the 15% rise there will be some cuts to services but if we can’t raise the additional 15% in Council Tax, other services will suffer. Fire station numbers will be reduced drastically. There will be no more subsidised buses to get people to work or the shops. Far fewer libraries and community recycling centres will be provided and much more. County Council services make a difference to everyone’s lives. If you want to help us to deliver good services to those who need them, think about voting Yes in the referendum and explain the facts to friends and neighbours.

This referendum is about telling the truth. It’s about all of us admitting that vital services cost money and that there are some duties that can’t be shirked or glossed over.

We have been lobbing Surrey’s MP’s and government about this and our MP Jonathan Lord, has been very supportive. I still hold out a glimmer of hope that government will see sense and we will not need a referendum but to date they have not been forthcoming

When you vote in May you will have two things to consider and I hope you will place each vote independently. Firstly consider if I have been a good councillor for Goldsworth East and Horsell West over the last four years, have I invested the time and energy in supporting you, the residents. Secondly the referendum which you can vote on based on the facts you are presented.

If Surrey residents vote No to the 15% Council Tax increase, I will respect their decision and do my bit to ensure that the cuts are made equitably.

Until then, I will continue to be a voice for the vulnerable, which is a promise that I made when I stood for election.

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Smoking Ban Project around Borough Playgrounds

After Colin’s great suggestion to involve ‘Kingdom’ around our delivery of cleaner centres and encouraging less littering, pupils across the Borough were asked to design a poster to ask adults visiting the play areas with their children, not to smoke.  Several schools participated and a pupil from  Horsell Junior School was judged the winner and her sign put up around the Borough play areas. Congratulations to her.  It was a great poster and can be seen at the Queen Elizabeth play area in the village as well as around the whole borough.

Wells in Woking

Watch out for the many events surrounding H G Wells that are coming to Woking over the course of this year. Beryl has been involved right from the start of this project and has worked with local residents and scholars, as well as WBC officers to make this a great year for Woking but more especially for Horsell, which is highlighted in ‘ War of the Worlds’.

She has been especially involved with officers at getting the art projects delivered in some Woking primary and secondary schools and visited Horsell Junior School to see the mural being done by some of the older pupils.

Canvassing your views

Beryl, Colin and Anne are always canvassing your views and wanting to hear what you have to say. We don’t just come round at election time but 7 days a week and 52 weeks of the year are contactable as a team.  Recently Beryl has been door knocking in Horsell East, which as an area is soon to be joining Horsell West to form the ward of Horsell.  Concerns that have been raised so far are around speeding, signage,  bad road surfaces as well as good feed back about the Town Centre and the new shops and restaurants that are coming or have come to boost the economy of the town. Do let us know if you have a concern that you want to raise with us.

Landscaping of the New Community Buildings in Horsell Village

After the delays caused by the objection to the old central footpath on the site, work has been renewed on completing the landscaping, the second tennis court, the Multi – use games area (muga) and the creation of a new second footpath as well as a top footpath linking Hill Close with Pares Close.  Interested parties met in the village hall on three occasions early this year to iron out any concerns that were expressed. The parties included local residents, the Tennis Club members, the Bowls Club interests and local borough councillors as well as the contractor and WBC partners.

The contractors hope that all will be completed by April.  This will complete the whole project, which has taken 6 years in all from conception to completion and at no cost to Borough residents. ” This has been something that we have longed for in Horsell and we are proud of what has been achieved for the village and all its residents – Young and old alike” said Colin and Beryl and Anne.

Plans approved for the new facilities at the allotments in Bullbeggars Lane

On Tuesday 8th March the Planning Committee approved the plans for the allotments along Bullbeggars Lane. The new facilities will bring a new kitchen, washroom facilities, store room and a shop to this very popular area.  It was over a year ago that having been approached by the Chairman of the allotments, Colin and I were asked to try to move this forward, not just as an idea but a reality.  We met with WBC officers and plans were put in place as well as the finances to cover the whole building costs and its facilities.  Now that planning permission has been approved, it is hoped that building works will begin as soon as possible.  We look forward to seeing the project completed this year.

Community clean up day on Horsell Moor Saturday 11th March

After nearly 6 months of planning and liaising with WBC, the Horsell residents were out in force last weekend to work around the Horsell Moor area.  About 28 people came and part way through there was coffee/ tea and cookies for the workers on what was a rather foggy morning.  Three areas were identified as needing attention along the whole stretch of the Moor and the work party divided into three groups to tackle the undergrowth within the wooded areas and along the edges of the trees.  At the same time litter was also collected and bagged so that SERCO could collect during the week.

Everyone had a really good time and in many cases new friendships were made as residents worked together.. Increasingly Horsell is becoming well known as an area that cares for the environment and the woodland areas around its borders.  They have already tackled Pares Woodland Garden at the top of the Community Buildings area in the centre of the village and again SERCO has worked with the residents to clear the rubbish that has been collected.  Other work parties have tackled the footpaths that criss cross the whole area, cutting back vegetation so that people can use them easily..

We as borough councillors  have helped in this process by getting some main footpaths resurfaced for the benefit of all. Next week on Saturday 19th March there will be the second work party at Horsell Moor. Come and help us as residents we love having new comers!