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.