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Public consultations launching on plans to transform services in face of financial pressures

Surrey County Council is launching five consultations as part of its transformation plans and to tackle the financial pressures facing the authority.

Context:

The authority is facing huge financial pressures due to reducing government grant despite growing demand for children’s and adult care services.

Despite saving £540m from its annual budget since 2010 the pressures are continuing to grow and the council still needs to save more than £200m by 2021.

Looking to the future the county council has worked with its partners and residents to launch a Vision for 2030 which looks to transform public services in Surrey.

David Hodge, Leader of Surrey County Council, said: “The aim is to transform the support provided by all of us to residents and communities, but to get there we’ll need to take some very difficult decisions. We know that some of the things we are proposing will not be popular but we have to look to change how we do things. By pulling together with other organisations in Surrey and working better with you and your communities, we can provide the best possible support with the resources available to us, especially to those that are most vulnerable.”

Community Recycling Centres: Consultation

Key points –

· Surrey currently has 15 Community Recycling Centres – three options are being considered in the consultation:

1. Closing four smaller, less-used centres in Bagshot, Cranleigh, Dorking and Warlingham and increasing the number of days a week that Leatherhead, Camberley and Caterham open from six to seven. The four centres only handle around a tenth of the total waste dropped off in Surrey.

2. Closing six smaller, less-used centres at Bagshot, Cranleigh, Dorking, Farnham, Lyne (Chertsey) and Warlingham and investing savings into opening the remaining nine centres seven days a week while also increasing the number of staff and looking at improving facilities and technology. Less than a fifth of waste dropped off in Surrey is handled by these six with the other nine dealing with all the rest.

3. Closing the same six centres and changing the opening times at the remaining nine. Between October and March they would open for five days a week, instead of six or seven at seven of the nine centres, but avoiding closing at the most popular times. Savings would be invested in opening the centres seven days a week from April to September when opening times would also be extended into the evening where possible. In addition the number of staff would be increased and improvements to facilities and technology also considered.

· Closing four centres would save at least £500,000 a year. Closing six would save in the region of £800,000 a year.

Mr Hodge said: “The financial pressures we’re facing are so severe that we have no other choice but to look again at whether savings can be found at Community Recycling Centres. We have to consider closing some centres which are less efficient and have fewer visitors. For example, four of our smallest centres only handle around a tenth of the waste dropped off and six take less than a fifth – with the other nine dealing with all the rest.”

Concessionary bus travel in Surrey: Consultation

Key points –

· Consider removing the county council’s extra funding for free bus travel for disabled people before 9.30am and after 11pm on weekdays and no longer providing a free pass for a companion.

· Bus travel would still be free for those eligible between 9.30am and 11pm on weekdays and all day at weekends and on public holidays in line with the national scheme.

· Only around 2% of journeys by disabled pass holders in Surrey are made outside the times for the national scheme.

· Surrey is one of a few areas of the country still providing both the extra benefits and the proposed changes would bring the county into line with most other areas.

· The proposed changes and other efficiencies would save around £400,000 a year.

Mr Hodge said: “On concessionary bus fares, Surrey has been providing benefits over and above the national scheme for many years. We are one of a few areas in the country still offering bus users both the additional concessions covered in the consultation. Only around two per cent of journeys under the scheme are made before 9.30 in the morning and these changes and other efficiencies would save around four hundred thousand pounds a year.”

Family Resilience and Children’s Centres: Consultation

Key points –

· Surrey currently has 58 children’s centres – the proposal is for 19 main centres to continue and another eight to become satellite centres. Thirty-one current centres would close – the council would seek to find alternative uses for the buildings.

· However, in total, there would be 21 main centres and nine satellites, because two new main centres would be opened, one in Horley and one in Dorking, at a site where some family services are already delivered. In addition, another satellite would be established, in Addlestone.

· At least one main centre in each district and borough, located in the areas where needed most.

· Centres would work with children right up to age 11 rather than five as now.

· Aim to help families become more resilient through earlier support before problems emerge.

· Focus resources on families who most need our help.

Mr Hodge said: “With children’s centres, our aim is to focus our resources on families who need our support most so they get help early on and we can try and prevent them needing social care services in the future. We want to create a network of hubs around the county which support children right up until they’re 11 rather than five as now and targeting areas with most need. We are consulting on proposals to close some centres but the service is not just about buildings – outreach workers will visit families in their homes and partners would work with us to provide the right help at the right time.”

Libraries and Cultural Services: Consultation

Key points –

· Fewer people visiting libraries despite increasing population – 25% drop in visits to Surrey libraries since 2010 – and big rise in use of online services.

· Surrey spends more on libraries than similar councils – £14 per person compared with £9.89 for average county council.

· Five proposed principles to guide reshaping of services to ensure they thrive in the future – 1. That libraries are most effective in partnership with other organisations in shared spaces or hubs, 2. That new technology could offer 24/7 access, 3. That libraries enable people to learn and access information, 4. That they strengthen communities – particularly for the most vulnerable, 5. That volunteers are crucial to libraries and gain skills through their work with them.

Mr Hodge said: “With libraries, more people are using our online services, with fewer visiting in person, so we’re looking at how we can do things differently to fit better with modern life. We want to hear people’s views on our proposals to reshape the services – such as whether libraries could bring together a range of local services under one roof.”

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities: Consultation

Key points –

· Draft strategy for transforming services for children needing support to help them reach potential and lead independent lives.

· Five proposed principles – 1. That needs are identified earlier, 2. That support is provided at the earliest opportunity, 3. That children can lead fulfilling lives in their own communities, 4. That children’s voices are heard, 5. That children can go to school locally.

· Proposals may avoid more costly services being needed in future.

· Finances need to be sustainable in the long run because rising demand is not matched by government funding.

Mr Hodge said: “Our proposals for special educational needs and disabilities services include giving support as early as possible which would be better for those who need help. We also want to provide support nearer to home and reduce the need for children to go to schools out of the county. That’s why we plan to create an extra 350 specialist school places in Surrey over the next two years. Overall the changes will mean better outcomes for children and families and at a time when government funding is failing to keep pace with the big increase in children needing help our proposals would also be more cost effective.”

The consultations open on Tuesday 30 October 2018 and close on Friday 4 January 2019. They can be found at www.surreycc.gov.uk/consultations

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