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Surrey Lib Dems call move to abolish area committees as ‘undermining local democracy’.

June 30, 2022 11:37 AM

Will Forster outside Quadrant CourtLib Dem Councillors have called the Conservative-run Surrey County Council's plans to axe area committees as one that 'undermines local democracy and reduce the local people's voice in Council decisions.'

Local and Joint Committees have been the mainstay of local democracy in Surrey over the last 20 years, providing a forum for county councillors to join with their counterparts from the district/borough councils to discuss issues and make decisions on local county council spending. Members of the public participated in the meetings by bringing petitions and asking questions about council services.

The Tory administration no longer values the role of these committees and has gradually reduced the frequency of meetings and their remit, removing decision-making on highway functions at its Cabinet meeting in February this year. Various ideas have been floated about replacing them with a new model of partnership working but as yet, no firm proposals or timeline have been set.

The Surrey Lib Dems continue to be supportive of the work of the Local and Joint Committees and have opposed their abolition, which is now set for, by latest 31 October 2022. The Lib Dem group will bring a motion to the July Full Council calling for the Local and Joint Committees to be able to continue until their replacements are fully implemented.

In proposing the motion Will Forster, Leader of the Lib Dems said:

"This move really threatens to undermine local democracy and reduce the local people's voice in Council decisions. The Tories have been looking to abolish Local and Joint Committees for a number of years but have yet to come up with any firm proposals for anything that will work better. Our concern is that if they are completely abolished without their replacements up and running, there could be a real temporary or even a permanent deficit in local democracy. Centralising power or giving it to council officers to make decisions goes against our fundamental belief in localism and we want to press the County Council into committing to a future that provides for local participation in local decision-making."