At the Budget meeting of Surrey County Council on Tuesday 9 February, the Liberal Democrats will be calling on the Conservative administration to protect vital services for Surrey residents.
Leader of he Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council, Cllr Hazel Watson said: "Whilst I support the level of Council Tax proposed by the Conservative administration at County Hall, I oppose their Budget as it does not do enough to protect vital services for Surrey residents. Clearly the top priority is the funding of care for vulnerable adults and I support the 2% part of the Council Tax increase for that purpose. The County Council has repeatedly overspent the Adult Social Care budget because there was insufficient money to meet the growing demand for services. This additional money for vulnerable adults will be a life line to help meet this growing demand.”
Cllr Watson continued: "However there are other vital services which are being under funded by the Conservative administration. These include, the youth service, bus services, Community Recycling Centres (refuse tips), road safety and drainage.
“Funding for the Youth Service was savagely cut last year and as a result it is more difficult for under 16 year olds to get the early help they need or to take part in positive activities arranged by youth workers.
“Similarly, bus services are being cut year after year despite the fact that many residents including young people, older people and disabled people are dependent on them. Bus services are viewed by the Conservative administration as a drain on resources but improved bus services could also reduce the numbers of cars on the road to help to tackle traffic congestion which is a common problem across Surrey.
“A recent decision by the Conservative administration to reduce the opening hours of Community Recycling Centres (refuse tips) and to charge for certain types of waste to save money will result in even more fly-tipping which is a blight on the environment.
“Another type of asset that is under funded by the County Council is footways. According to the County Council's most recent condition survey in 2014, one third of Surrey's footways were found to be "functionally or structurally impaired". Thus more money is needed for a programme of resurfacing and repairing footways to bring them up to a decent standard.
“With the doubling of the number of deaths on Surrey's roads in 2014, more money has to be spent on road safety schemes such as lower speed limits where appropriate and pedestrian crossings in order to reduce the number of deaths on Surrey's roads.
“Finally, the many wetspots where there is flooding on the road and of nearby properties requires more funding to resolve them such as by clearing the many blocked road drains across the County.”
Cllr Watson said: “I have a number of suggestions for making savings to fund these vital services. Firstly reducing the County Council's Communications Budget of £2 million and discontinuing the "Surrey Matters" magazine which costs about £200,000. I would reduce the County Council's over-reliance on expensive agency staff by recruiting and retaining directly employed staff at a lower cost. My next suggestion is to abolish the four unnecessary Cabinet Associate posts totalling £50,000 per year. I would sell the Wiltshire property purchased by the County Council's wholly owned property company for £12.4 million. I believe that £12.4 million would be better spent in Surrey than in Wiltshire! The County Council should not be investing in properties outside Surrey. However the County Council should be selling or letting under used offices to maximise income and to ensure that money is not wasted. It should also be investing in improving the energy efficiency of its buildings such as by installing solar panels and energy efficient lighting to reduce energy bills.”
Cllr Watson concluded: "Surrey residents deserve better from the County Council. If Council Tax is to increase, Surrey residents should expect value for money services in return. This can be achieved if changes are made to the Budget to put the money where it is most needed to protect services and to avoid it being wasted.”