Surrey's funding challenges

Peter Szanto, who represents East Molesey and Esher on Surrey County Council, updates readers on potholes and the financial challenges facing Surrey.

Residents are understandably angry at the state of our roads and I share their indignation. Surrey is in financial straits, despite huge efficiency savings. This is largely the result of massive increases in demand for adult social care and children’s services and reductions in government funding.

The Council still must act to improve our roads. It’s a service that is critical to our residents and businesses. I can report some progress. Next year’s budget for local highways will be doubled and we may have around £200,000 in total for work in Elmbridge. This will certainly be a help but much more needs to be done, we will keep on fighting!

Surrey’s Council tax bills will rise by 5.99% in April, adding £1.53 per week to the average household’s bill. Over half of the increase is ring-fenced for adult social care where demand for our services has been rising steeply.

It may be helpful to share a few facts and figures. Surrey receives the lowest per head Central Government grant in England - just £13 per resident, compared to the national average of £57 per head. Our taxpayers fund nearly 90% of Surrey County Council’s spending, compared to the national average of 60%. Around 80% of Surrey’s budget covers schools, adult social care and children’s services. The remaining 20% covers everything from the fire and rescue service, to waste and recycling centres, registrar and coroner services and our roads get 3% of Surrey’s spend.

Conservative-run SCC has made efficiency savings worth £540m since 2010/11, nearly all of it opposed by Lib Dem and RA councillors who proposed no alternatives. We are lobbying MPs to address the unfair funding formula and have been successful in getting Surrey included in a pilot business rate retention scheme (worth around £20m in 2018/19).

Unfortunately, with demand for services rising and funding falling, SCC is caught between a rock and a hard place and must continue to make tough decisions.