Welcome to the website of the Liberal Democrat Group on Surrey County Council
Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council have revealed almost £67m of public money has been spent on buying properties outside the county, using a council-owned property company called Halsey Garton Property Limited. The properties purchased with funding from the Conservative-run Council were mainly warehouses situated in locations such as Wiltshire, Bristol, Worksop and Salford. The most expensive acquisition was an office in Bristol, at the cost of just under £20m.
Liberal Democrat Councillors have criticised Tory-run Surrey County Council after discovering that residents have still not been informed about plans to turn off thousands off street lights at night.
In response to a question at the July County Council meeting from Councillor Stephen Cooksey, Liberal Democrat Spokesman for Highways & Environment, the Council stated that it was planning to permanently turn off 45,000 street lamps from midnight until 5.00am. The first phase of 33,000 lights was scheduled for 1st October 2016 and the second, of 12,000 lights, for December or January. But Surrey County Council have admitted that the process has been delayed and that they cannot give a date as to when residents will find out if they will be left in the dark by these proposals or not.
Liberal Democrat Councillors have strongly criticised Conservative-run Surrey County Council for agreeing to hike adult social care charges by over £1m for disabled and vulnerable residents. The new charges, due to take effect from 3rd October 2016, have been pushed through by the Conservative-run Council, despite a consultation which showed strong opposition to the plans by residents and disability groups.
Previously, Surrey residents in receipt of Personal Independence Payments, Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance had the first £27.20 of their benefit disregarded when the Council was calculating their income. From October, the full amount of their benefit will be taken into account - which means that Surrey County Council will be billing disabled residents for an extra £1m. The increase in charges follows the deepening crisis for Adult Social Care services in the county and the failure of the Conservatives at County Hall to come to grips with a spiralling budget and years of overspends.
In June this year, the cross-party Social Care Services Board heard evidence from the Surrey Coalition of Disabled People and Action for Carers, who both strongly opposed the changes. The Board went on to criticise the proposals noting that there was "strong resistance to the proposed changes, and concerns about the detrimental impact on disabled people, their carers and families given the reduction in disposable income". And in July, the Conservative Cabinet was presented with the results from the consultation which showed that 61% of respondents "disagreed or disagreed strongly" with the proposal. This follows on from another recent consultation where the Council ignored the views of residents - the unpopular "Tory Tip Tax" - a charge local people have to pay to use their local Community Recycling Centre.
Cllr Fiona White, Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats on Social Care said:
"In just a few weeks time, our Conservative-run County Council will start charging an extra one million pounds from 700 of our most vulnerable residents. How on earth can they justify spending millions of pounds on buying property outside of Surrey, whilst pushing through a proposal that will cause real hardship to disabled people? One of the most important aspects of our role as Councillors is to protect vulnerable and disabled residents, and help improve the quality of their lives. These proposals are anathema to that and it is appalling that these plans have been given the nod by the Conservatives - they should hang their heads in shame.
Liberal Democrat councillors are warning that the Conservative-run County Council's plans to charge the public for using Community Recycling Centres, as well as reducing their opening hours, could lead to even bigger increases in fly-tipping across Surrey. Recent figures show that fly-tipping across the county has doubled in the last two years, from 2093 tonnes in 2013/14 to 4441 tonnes in 2015/16.
At the Budget meeting of Surrey County Council on Tuesday 9 February, the Liberal Democrats called 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.
The Liberal Democrats are calling on the County Council to take into account the quality of life of local residents, including noise levels, when making decisions about different road surfaces.
Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition on Surrey County Council said: "When roads are surface dressed in order to prolong their life by sealing them and to save money before a full surfacing the road becomes noisier for residents living nearby.
"At present the County Council does not take into account the noise levels or the quality of life of residents living nearby to a road that is being resurfaced with a surface dressing. This needs to change so that local residents are not unnecessarily disturbed by noisy road surfaces when this can be avoided.
"I am asking the Conservative administration at County Hall to change its policy to take into account not just cost but also the quality of life of local residents, including noise levels of different road surfaces when deciding on types of materials and processes for surface dressing or full road resurfacing.
"Surrey residents should not have to suffer as a result of a noisy road surface when a quieter surface could be provided. Quality of life does matter and the County Council should be seeking to protect it for Surrey residents."
The Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council are calling on the Conservative administration at County Hall to put more money towards improving Surrey's footways.
Cllr Stephen Cooksey, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Highways & Transport said:
"Surrey's footways are crumbling and need to be brought up to a decent standard for pedestrians. The most recent condition survey in 2014 showed that one-third of the county's footways were 'functionally or structurally impaired'. Since then little has been done by the Conservative administration to tackle the problem of Surrey's sub-standard footways while they have been concentrating on resurfacing Surrey's roads.
"The condition of Surrey's footways is just as important for pedestrians as the condition of Surrey's roads is for motorists. Footways and pedestrians have not been given the priority they deserve. It is a Cinderella service in Surrey.
"I am calling on the Conservative administration at County Hall to redress the balance by funding a programme of resurfacing and re-paving of Surrey's footways to bring them up to a decent standard. This continued neglect of our footways must not continue."
The Liberal Democrats have opposed the Conservative-run County Council's flawed decision taken by their Cabinet today to reduce the opening hours of Surrey's tips (known as Community Recycling Centres) and to introduce charges for DIY waste, gas bottles and car tyres at the tips.
Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition said:
The Liberal Democrats launched the "Lib Dem Fightback" to reconnect with Surrey residents and started planning for the County Council elections at a well-attended Conference in Guildford this weekend. The Conference follows on from a series of Council by-election wins in Surrey since the general election where the Party held council seats in Mole Valley, Elmbridge and Woking and gained a seat from UKIP in Mole Valley.
Liberal Democrats are calling on the Conservative administration at County Hall to ditch their controversial plans for changes to Surrey's tips as they would increase fly tipping across the county.
Cllr John Orrick, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition on Surrey County Council, said:
"The County Council's recent consultation about Surrey's tips angered many residents because the changes would increase fly-tipping. The proposed changes included charging for disposing of DIY waste at the tips, reducing their opening hours or even closing some of them.
"The wording of the consultation only gave unacceptable options that would make it more difficult for residents to recycle or dispose of waste at Surrey's tips. It gave no opportunity for residents to say that the tips should stay the same or improve.
"Fly-tipping is already a big problem in Surrey with rubbish being dumped on land and roads. Not only is it a blight on Surrey's beautiful countryside, but it is hugely costly for landowners such as the National Trust, as well as district and borough councils, to clear up the mess. These so-called 'savings' would just push the costs onto others.
"Surrey residents should send a message to the County Council telling them to ditch these unacceptable changes to the tips. Residents can show their opposition by signing the online petition on the County Council's website."
Cllr Orrick concluded:
"I hope that the Conservative administration will listen to Surrey residents and drop these misguided changes."