Recent years have been a time of challenge, upheaval and difficult decisions for Surrey County Council, but with a programme of reform underway, we can look to the future with renewed optimism, writes Peter Szanto, County Councillor for East Molesey and Esher.
Under the leadership of Tim Oliver, a former Elmbridge Council leader, the Conservative Group at Surrey is taking steps to improve the performance of key council services and we are raising the bar.
Children’s Services have shown genuine improvements and I am hopeful that ‘inadequate’ ratings will be a thing of the past when we are re-inspected by Ofsted next year. The Cabinet has also approved plans to modernise the Surrey Fire and Rescue service to make it fit for the future, including recruiting more firefighters and increasing prevention work.
Surrey is determined to lead by example on the climate emergency and announcements about new initiatives are coming, thanks to the work of the Environment Commission we established. We are keeping all of our recycling centres open and looking to expand the services they provide - and we are planting 1.2 million more trees, one for every Surrey resident. As Cllr Oliver said recently “The future of the planet is everybody’s collective responsibility and
we must all do more”.
Even with constrained funding, Surrey has carried out more than 50,000 road repairs this year and I will be pushing for more investment in our roads. The Council is setting up a £50m community grant fund to improve our High Streets and providing surplus space in Surrey County Council buildings for free use by voluntary and charitable organisations. We are considering converting surplus council-owned land to public allotments.
It’s important to remember that the majority of the council tax you pay goes on protecting and supporting our most vulnerable residents, through Adult Social Care, Looked After Children and those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. To give you an idea of the sums involved, Surrey spends over £1 million every single day looking after our adult residents who need our support and half a million each day on our children’s services.
The government’s proposed 2% precept on council tax for Adult Social Care will go some way to helping meet those ever-increasing costs, however it is a tiny fraction of the costs involved.
There is still a lot to do, but we are making swift and effective progress towards providing better services, supporting those who need our help the most and delivering value for money for the taxpayer.