Welcome to the website of the Liberal Democrat Group on Surrey County Council
The Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council are calling for action to be taken by the council to recruit and retain more Social Workers in the County. The need for action follows an inadequate rating by Ofsted inspectors of Surrey's Children's Services in a report published last month.
There is also a growing need for Social Workers to protect vulnerable adults with an increasingly ageing population in the County.
OFSTED carried out an inspection of services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers in Surrey in October and November 2014. Today it published its inspection report with the overall judgment that Surrey County Council's Children's Services are "inadequate".
In the report, OFSTED inspectors found "widespread and serious failures that potentially leave children at risk of harm." They were particularly critical of the inadequate leadership, management and governance of Children's Services in Surrey.
The Inspectors found that a reorganisation of Children's Services in March 2014 had resulted in a significant number of children in need not receiving an adequate service. For example, the service for children who go missing from home or care was judged inadequate because the children do not always have a return interview to ensure that they are safe.
The County Council also had failed to demonstrate the impact for neglected children with child protection plans. Many case records for children were not up to date and lacked enough detail to show sufficient support to help children.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition on Surrey County Council, Cllr Hazel Watson, said: "This report is a shocking wake up call for the Conservative administration at County Hall."
She continued, "Protecting vulnerable children from harm should be the top priority for the County Council. Sadly the leadership and management in Surrey have been severely lacking, which has put such vulnerable children at risk of harm."
Cllr Hazel Watson added: "The County Council has already started work to implement all of the recommendations made by the Inspectors. These include improved training for social workers, better assessment and planning for looked after children and more support for care leavers. I am pleased that the work to put things right is already underway."
Cllr Hazel Watson will be continuing to work with the Conservative administration and representatives of other Political Groups to ensure that the report's recommendations are fully implemented. She is also pressing the County Council to do much more to recruit and retain social workers in Surrey so that there are enough experienced social workers to provide the best service possible for Surrey's children.
Cllr Hazel Watson concluded: "Surrey's Conservative administration has to make significant improvements in Children's Services as it has brushed the problems under the carpet for far too long. I hope that following the recent change in the Cabinet member responsible for Children's Services in Surrey that this new leadership will result in rapid improvement."
The Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council are calling for the threshold number of signatures on a petition to be reduced from 10,000 to 3,000 to allow a petition to be debated at full Council meetings.
Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition on Surrey County Council, said:" The Conservative administration at County Hall is setting the threshold for the number of signatures on a petition to allow it to be debated at full Council far too high at 10,000. It should be drastically reduced to 3,000 signatures to give residents a realistic chance of presenting a petition for debate at full Council."
Almost one-third of Surrey parents are unable to take up childcare places with most failing to take up the childcare places because it is too expensive according to a recent report published by Surrey County Council. Instead, they have to rely on other family members, particularly grandparents, to help with all or some of their childcare needs if they want to return to work or study.
Cllr Hazel Watson Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition on Surrey County Council said: "Childcare costs in Surrey are so expensive that many parents just cannot use the childcare that is available as it leaves them in a pay-neutral or pay-negative position."
This arises where the cost of childcare plus the cost of travel wipe out someone's entire net of tax earnings, preventing many parents from going out to work and from earning a living to support their families.
It is also stopping those parents from contributing their skills to the Surrey economy.
Hazel Watson continued, "The cost of childcare should not be a barrier to parents taking up childcare and going to work. Childcare is a necessity for working parents, not a luxury, and should be available, at an affordable price, to all and especially to those on low incomes.
Hazel Watson added, "In order to meet this need, the County Council has to ensure that there are enough childcare places at affordable prices in Surrey to meet demand."
Hazel Watson concluded, "It is no good having childcare places on offer to parents if they are too expensive and unaffordable to parents who want to go out to work to support their families."
Liberal Democrat David Lee has regained his seat on Tandridge District Council by winning the Whyteleafe ward by-election with a 50% share of the vote.
David Lee, Liberal Democrats 393 (50.0%)
Conservative 274 (34.9%)
UKIP 119 (!5.1%)
Swing 15.3% con to Lib Dem
Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council have proposed that the Conservative run Council shelves its planned cuts to bus services following the recent significant fall in oil prices.
Liberal Democrat County Councillor Will Forster (South Woking) said: " The County Council is currently reviewing bus services across Surrey and is seeking to cut spending on buses and bus passes by around £2 million. The recent public consultation on the Surrey Transport Review received 6,800 comments, which just goes to show how important bus services are for Surrey residents.
"At the County Council meeting on 17 March I proposed the following motion for debate:
'In light of the recent significant fall in oil prices, Council calls on the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet to ensure the Transport Review and negotiations with bus operating companies are conducted to preserve bus services throughout Surrey.'""
Cllr Forster added: "Since the Council announced its transport review, there has been significant fall in the oil price across the world and the cost of fuel is one of the biggest single costs in running a bus service. As a result, the Council should drop its planned cuts to bus services and change its approach to reviewing bus services. The fall in the oil price massively strengthens the hand of the Council to get a good deal out of the bus companies to both preserve our bus services and at a reduced cost to the council taxpayer."
The Conservative majority rejected the motion and amended it to remove the requirement that existing bus services should be preserved.
Cllr Forster concluded, "Our roads are already congested as it is, the Conservative administration at County Hall should be looking at ways to encourage public transport not reduce what little we have further. Residents clearly feel passionately about not losing their bus services, it is a shame the Conservatives running the County Council do not feel the same way."
Calls by Liberal Democrats for no more runways at Heathrow and Gatwick were voted down by the Conservatives at County Hall yesterday.
Cllr Ian Beardsmore, (Sunbury Common and Ashford Common) said: "With Heathrow claiming that expansion there would mean 120,000 new jobs, there is deep concern as to where these people will live and the consequent impact on the green belt. The local councils near to Heathrow are already struggling to meet housing demand. A similar threat remains should Gatwick be chosen over Heathrow with large areas of countryside in the southern part of Surrey at risk of being destroyed. The Conservatives refused to face up to or to answer these concerns."
One privately owned residential care home in Surrey has recently been closed by Care Quality Commission meaning that older people had to be moved at short notice. Another home close to Surrey's borders which the council has used for care packages was also closed down. A check of Care Quality Commission's website shows that there are 5 privately owned homes within 13 miles of Guildford where they have been found to be inadequate in one or more categories.
Liberal Democrat County Councillor Hazel Watson, who provided evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Parliamentary Select Committee on the rollout of Superfast Broadband in the villages and rural areas of Surrey, has welcomed the Select Committee's Report on the roll-out of Superfast Broadband.
Liberal Democrats are calling on Conservative run Surrey County Council to adopt proposals in a recently published report about carbon and energy policy which sets out ways in which the County Council could save money on its sky high energy bills and reduce its carbon emissions, benefiting the environment.