Welcome to the website of the Liberal Democrat Group on Surrey County Council
The Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council are calling for urgent action to tackle the sharp rise in the number of people killed and seriously injured on Surrey's roads. This follows the recently released figures for 2014 showing that Surrey had the third largest increase in people killed and seriously injured in England and Wales. The number of deaths on Surrey roads more than doubled, increasing from 18 to 38 deaths.
Liberal Democrat County Councillor, Will Forster (Woking South) said:
"The number of people killed and seriously injured on Surrey's roads is unacceptable. Each person killed is a tragic loss and impacts severely on their family and friends. This cannot be allowed to continue. The Conservative administration at County Hall has clearly taken its eye off the ball and not given road safety the attention it deserves.
"I am calling on the Conservative administration to give much higher priority to road safety. This must include more funding for road safety education such as through Drive SMART, road safety outside schools and highways improvements. Much more could be done to make Surrey's roads safer, for example by making sure that all roads have appropriate speed limits, warning signs and road markings to alert drivers to hazards, pedestrians crossings to help pedestrians cross the road safely, cycle lanes and junction improvements."
Cllr Forster concluded:
"This is a wake-up call to urgently improve road safety to save lives on Surrey's roads."
The Children's Improvement Plan 2015 to improve Surrey's inadequate Children's Services was today published by the County Council. The plan was required following the Ofsted inspection report published in June 2015 that rated Surrey's Children's Service as "inadequate". Inspectors concluded that there were "widespread and serious failures that potentially leave children at risk of harm."
New figures released by the Department of Health show the Conservative Government is planning a £2.2m cut to the public health budget across Surrey.
The public health budget pays to relieve pressure on local NHS hospitals and clinics by helping people to solve their own potential health problems before they become more serious. The budget includes work to help people to exercise more, give up smoking and tackle drug addiction.
Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council, said "Surrey parents want their children to be safe going to and from school and 20 mph speed limits outside schools help to achieve this by reducing traffic speeds and improving road safety. A reduced speed limit warns drivers that they need to slow down near a school and in general drivers do slow down."
In Mole Valley, the County Council introduced three trial 20 mph advisory limits outside schools and following the trial the 20 mph advisory limits were made permanent. However, whilst making these trial 20 mph limits permanent, the County Council also decided not to roll-out the trial to cover the roads outside other schools in the district.
Cllr Hazel Watson said, "There can be no justification for the 20 mph advisory limits to be restricted to just these three schools in Mole Valley. If a 20 mph advisory limit is appropriate for the road outside one school then it is almost certainly appropriate for the roads outside almost all, if not all, schools in the district. The safety of all our children is paramount, not just the safety of the children who attend a school selected for a 20 mph advisory speed limit trial."
Cllr Watson added: "Requests for 20 mph speed limits stretch across the whole of Surrey. Just to give a few examples within my own Division of Dorking Hills, a 20 mph speed limit is needed on Ranmore Road near to St Martin's School in Dorking and also outside the Abinger Common site of Surrey Hills School on Abinger Lane where there is a 60 mph speed limit and no pavements. Also requests have been made by the school and the local community for a 20 mph speed limit near Boxhill School in Mickleham where the boarding houses and the school are on opposite sides of the road - a situation which led to a fatal accident at another school in the South East in the recent past."
Cllr Watson continued: "Whilst many Surrey parents want 20 mph speed limits to be implemented outside their child's school as is common in many areas outside Surrey, Surrey County Council is being very slow to introduce them. This begs the question: Why is it so difficult to get a 20 mph speed limit introduced here in Surrey? I believe that the answer is that it is not a high priority for the Conservative administration. To quote the Leader of the County Council when giving evidence to a House of Commons Select Committee in 2014: The problem is that it is all very well putting in a 20 mph limit, but unless somebody is going to enforce it you have wasted a whole lot of money. My view is that I have no intention of wasting public money putting in 20 mph zones."
Cllr Watson concluded: "I simply do not believe the Council Leader's analysis. The evidence across the country shows that drivers do slow down where there are 20 mph speed limits outside schools and any reduction in traffic speeds outside our schools is welcome. I am thus asking the Conservative administration to respond to Surrey residents in a positive way by prioritising funding to implement 20 mph limits outside those schools where the school and the community request them. We must not wait until a child is killed or injured crossing the road near their school before introducing a 20 mph limit. The safety of Surrey's children must be a top priority, not put at the bottom of the pile."
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."