Will Forster

Mayor of Woking and Lib Dem County Councillor for Woking South Learn more

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Tories at County Hall planning to cut £196 million

by willforster on 1 May, 2018

The Conservatives running Surrey County Council have revealed they are planning to reduce spending on services by nearly £200 million by the end of 2019/20.

The figures were released in a report to the Council’s Cabinet this week, alongside the administration’s decision to hire consultants, at an undisclosed sum, to assist with the County Council’s “programme management and change capacity” project.

The Lib Dems and I am deeply concerned about the adverse impact on vital Council services that would result from a spending reduction of almost £200 million over the next two years.  Surrey residents rely on the County Council for well-maintained roads, recycling centres, libraries, children’s centres and youth services.  These services are already underfunded and further cuts and spending reductions are on the way.

The Tory-administration failed to act upon the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA) report “Financial Resilience Review – Surrey County Council (Dec 2016)”, which it commissioned, stating that the County Council lacked a “credible cost reduction plan” and highlighted the County Council’s “rapidly declining reserves”.  The County Council’s belated realisation that it is facing a financial crisis means that even more drastic cuts are being proposed than would have otherwise been necessary, which will reduce essential services for residents.  “Consultants have been hired for an undisclosed sum by the administration to assist with the County Council’s “programme management and change capacity” project.  This is a sign of desperation by the Conservative administration to help them solve the County Council’s severe financial problems but it remains to be seen whether this will be value for money.

The Leader of the Council blames poor financial settlements from Central Government for the financial position of his administration, yet every Tory MP in Surrey voted for the most recent settlement.  Furthermore, the administration has wasted money on maintaining dozens of empty County Council-owned buildings across the county, as well as spending hundreds of millions on investing in commercial properties outside of Surrey – money which could have been used to resurface Surrey’s crumbling roads and footways.  Investing in road resurfacing would save money on expensive pothole repairs and claims by residents for damaged vehicles.

The County Council wasted over £1 million on its deeply unpopular free “Surrey Matters” magazine over a number of years and still spends £2m a year on “communications”.  It has failed to use new digital technology to transform services to improve efficiency, and instead finds itself raiding ever-dwindling reserves each year in order to balance the budget.  That’s why the Lib Dems and I are calling for the Conservative administration to protect services for Surrey residents by using, selling or renting its empty buildings, stopping spending millions of pounds on commercial properties outside Surrey and by improving the efficency of the Council through the use of IT and new digital technology.

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