Will Forster

Lib Dem Councillor for South Woking and Leader of the Lib Dems on Surrey County Council Learn more

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County Deal is a power grab

by willforster on 28 September, 2021

The Lib Dems and I have called Surrey County Council’s draft County Deal for Surrey bid a power grab.

The County Council is currently putting together a bid for more powers from Central Government as part of a County Deal for Surrey.  However, there is growing concern that the County Deal bid is a simple power grab by the Conservatives to enable the Council to become a unitary authority by the back door.

The draft County Deal for Surrey bid includes significant new powers for the County Council.  If approved, the Council would get the authority to introduce five new taxes which could mean a tax bombshell for local residents and businesses.  It would also create a ‘Surrey Spatial Plan’; this could mean yet more centrally imposed arbitrary housing targets, riding roughshod over the needs and wishes of local communities.

My colleagues and I have previously criticised the Leader of the County Council for unilaterally writing to the Government asking for a County Deal for Surrey without consulting County Councillors or Surrey’s Borough and District Councils.  Council Leader Tim Oliver only informed Councillors of the bid more than two weeks later.

The UK is the most centralised democracy in the world – so the Lib Dems and I want Central Government to empower local authorities, as people in their local communities are best placed to tackle the issues they face.  But this draft County Deal for Surrey is not the way to do this.

The County Deal for Surrey is not about localism, it is a simple power grab by the Conservatives running the County Council.  The Tories wasted £250,000 of public money on their failed bid to become a unitary authority, and they are trying to centralise power in Surrey again.

Instead of spending their time and public money on this power grab, the Council should be focusing on providing quality services and value for money for local people.  Until recently, four of Surrey’s services were officially rated as failing.  If the Conservative-run Council cannot cope with its current responsibilities, why should residents trust them with even more?

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