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Surrey County Hall LRPress release from the Independents & Residents' Association Group on the unsuccessful bid to create a Surrey Single Unitary

In an extraordinary virtual Council Meeting on Tuesday, SCC’s ruling Conservative Group refused to put up even one councillor to speak in a debate on a Motion (see below) relating to their controversial and ill-timed plans for a Unitary Council.

The Motion, proposed by Residents’ Association and Independent County Councillors, called upon the Council Leader to provide a full Report on the rationale for his Unitary plans as well as the costs incurred so far which are estimated to be well over £¼ million.

However following an opening speech from Residents Association County Councillor Nick Darby, seconded by RA County Councillor Eber Kington, no Conservative councillors indicated a wish to speak. Instead a vote was called by the Chairman of the Council and the Motion was lost when all Conservatives voted it down.

Leader of the RA/Independent Group County Councillor Nick Darby said:
“The refusal to debate the issue and to reject any public scrutiny of their plans is not only treating opposition councillors with contempt but more importantly it is treating Surrey residents with contempt.

“But in addition to the problems associated with the process itself, such as the lack of a meaningful public consultation and insufficient briefing sessions for the decision makers, there have been enormous costs associated with this intended bid. The £50k figure quoted by Tim Oliver in a radio interview quickly turned into £325,000 when investigated.

The Conservative leadership at SCC is too accident prone when it comes to spending public money. This is not the first time recently that the Council wastes enormous amounts of money on projects that never came to fruition, including the intended purchase of a new HQ in Woking which wasted another £183,000.”

Ashtead Independent Councillor Chris Townsend said:
“With breath-taking arrogance the ruling Conservatives decided that they did not have to justify their initially secret plans to abolish Surrey’s Borough and District Councils, and they certainly didn’t feel the need to allow the spending on their project to be scrutinised”.

Expressing his frustration RA County Councillor John Beckett said:
”How can the Conservatives at Surrey in one breath say they are all for Surrey residents and then when asked to be open and honest, treat residents with such disrespect and try to keep the £325,000 cost a secret.”

Commenting on how RA and Independent County Councillors will now react, RA County Councillor Eber Kington said:
“If the Conservatives don’t want to discuss their plans in public, those of us concerned about the spiralling costs, the flawed public consultation, and the plans to raid the reserves and assets of Surrey’s Boroughs and Districts, will have our own conversation with Surrey’s residents”.


For more information and comment:

   County Councillor Nick Darby - 07719 728 725 or nick.darby@surreycc.gov.uk

   County Councillor Eber Kington – 07598 322 406 or ekington@epsom-ewell.gov.uk

_________________________________________________________

The RA/Independent Group Motion

This Council notes:

The unsuccessful attempt by the Leader of the Council and Cabinet to submit a case to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to create a Surrey Single Unitary Council.

That the potential bid has caused reputational damage to Surrey County Council.

Therefore resolves that:

In order to understand the reasons behind the bid, the decision not to consult from the start with Borough and District Councils, and the cost to the council taxpayer, this Council calls upon the Leader and Cabinet to provide a full public written Report on this unsuccessful bid, to include the following:

  1. The process used to launch the bid and authorise expenditure on the bid.
  2. The rationale for developing a bid before the Government’s White Paper has been published.
  3. The full costs of the bid including the costs of the initial research and financial analysis, preparation of a comprehensive business case, consultants fees, Public Affairs support, the Telephone and Focus Group Survey, any Surrey-wide leaflets which included material in support of a bid for a Single Surrey Unitary, and officer time.
  4. Other relevant information.