Speaking in response to the widely distributed email from Surrey County Council's Chief Executive to a member of the public over the recent stay by Conservative Cabinet members and senior council officers at Farnham Castle, Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition Hazel Watson said:
"It should not be left to the Chief Executive of Surrey County Council to defend the indefensible waste of public money by the Conservative administration at County Hall. The stay at Farnham Castle demonstrated how out of touch with reality the Conservative administration is, and they have shown their misplaced priorities by not taking a political decision that spending Council Taxpayers money like this was wrong."
The Conservative-run administration at County Hall spent £4,158 of Surrey Council Taxpayers money on a two day residential trip from 5 - 6 November to Farnham Castle in Surrey for 26 senior Conservative councillors and council officers. Surrey County Council has its own conference facilities that it could have used instead, for example at Consort House in Redhill, which has plenty of conference rooms available.
In addition Conservative Minister Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, this week published a paper entitled 50 Ways to save: Examples of Sensible Savings in Local Government. At Number 20 on his list is: "Cancel away days in posh hotels ... Use a council-owned property to hold any away day. Or borrow a room from a neighbouring council at no cost, and offer a free room to them for their away day ..."
Hazel Watson continued: "The Conservative Leadership in Surrey should listen to their own government ministers and should not be spending public money on overnight stays in posh hotels. This year Surrey's Conservatives increased Council Tax by the highest percentage in the country, whilst insisting they have to cut essential services, but they are happy to go away to lavish surroundings at Council Taxpayers expense".
1. Cllr Hazel Watson was responding to the following widely circulated email from Surrey County Council's Chief Executive to a member of the public:
Thank you for your email about the workshop at Farnham.Intensive workshops with a very focussed agenda are a recognised way of enabling organisations to develop their approach on complex issues.
The scale of the challenges facing us make it more important than ever that time is invested in ensuring we have the most effective approach to delivering our growing responsibilities. The ideas that came out of this very intensive workshop are already delivering savings and benefits to residents that go way beyond the cost of the workshop itself.
Your comments about lots of empty space at County Hall are incorrect. I believe that councillors and staff at Surrey County Council are continually focussed on value for money which is why we have made such strong efficiency savings over recent years. You will note that external auditors agree with my view about our relentless focus on becoming more efficient and better value for money.
Yes I was at the workshop. I am satisfied that it was the least expensive way of delivering the type of workshop that was required. I agreed with the leader that it was an appropriate venue in Surrey.Best wishes,
2. Link to 50 Ways to save: Examples of Sensible Savings in Local Government (pdf file)
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