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Summary of Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Meeting (26th January 21)

Surrey County Council’s Cabinet met this week and made a number of important announcements regarding the council’s future plans. These are summarised below:

COVID response

Cabinet announced that Surrey was on track to meet the mid-February target of vaccinating the top four cohorts within the population, amounting to 230,000 people.

Leader Tim Oliver praised the work of partners throughout the pandemic but cautioned that everybody must still stick to the rules during the final stretch of the vaccination programme.

A full update on Surrey’s ongoing response to COVID-19 including updates on testing, vaccinations, impact on communities, financial update and recovery work can be found here.

2021/22 Budget

Due to the council’s stable financial position, and in light of the challenges many residents have faced following the impact of COVID, the council announced it would not increase Council Tax by the full amount allowed by government.

Tim Oliver, Leader of Surrey County Council said: “The hard work and dedication of Surrey County Council over the last two years to get our finances in order, mean we have been able to cope with the challenges that have come this year.

“We have to make sure we’re equipped going into an uncertain future and we are having to increase Council Tax by 2.49% – this is equivalent to 72p per week for Band D, and is half the amount allowed by government and proposed by many other councils.

“Over half of our day-to-day spending is spent on our most vulnerable residents, working to improve quality of life and reduce inequality. We spend over £1m every single day on looking after vulnerable adults, and over £0.5m every day on looking after our young people.”

Mel Few, Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “Over the last three years this council has delivered around £250m of year-on-year efficiencies. This means we can set a balanced budget, without needing to draw on reserves.”

The full report is available here.

The council shared its Medium-Term Financial Strategy, which outlines capital (one-off) investment that totals around £2bn over the next five years.

This 5-year investment plan has become even more important in ensuring the county and communities can thrive over the coming years of recovery from the impact of COVID-19. This includes:

  • £100m Your Fund Surrey that launched in November and will strengthen communities and give residents more power and influence. More information is available here.
  • A commitment to deliver a greener and more sustainable future for Surrey residents. Including £105m for renewable energy, active travel and the move towards zero carbon; including £48m investment in low emission buses. More information available here.
  • Our £268m investment in schools and £74m in Special Educational Needs & Disabilities provision to ensure our children can overcome this year’s disruption and get the best possible start in life.
  • £286m for large scale infrastructure projects like in Farnham town centre & the A320 scheme.
    • This is in addition to the £116m invested in infrastructure to boost economic growth across Surrey
    • And £264m on highways to boost active travel & make getting around the county smoother. More information available here

Communities

Surrey County Council also announced an additional £500k for Community Foundation for Surrey to help empower residents & boost local community involvement across Surrey. This is in addition to the £100m Your Fund Surrey.

Cabinet Member for Communities Mark Nuti said: “Our priority to empower communities will touch everything we do across all areas of the council.”

Special Educational Needs & Disabilities Provision

Cllr Julie Iles also presented a report outlining plans to spend £11.5m to provide a further 400 Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND) places for the start of 2021/22 academic year. This is on top of £69.2m already spent on 1,183 additional places approved since 2019.

The recommendations were approved, bringing the County’s total specialist school places to 5,100 – meeting demand for 2021/22. Full report available here

Children’s Improvement

Cabinet acknowledged a report into Children’s Services Improvement, which outlined the huge challenges facing staff because of COVID but noted the continued improvement in looking after children and families.

Further information available here.

Flood Alleviation

Deputy Leader Colin Kemp presented a report on the River Thames Scheme, part of the council’s £270m commitment to reduce flood risk in the county.

Cabinet agreed to take it forward as a Development Consent Order application in partnership with the Environment Agency.

Full report available here.

Farnham Town Centre

Cabinet discussed proposals to restrict HGVs from travelling through residential areas and the town centre, with the hope being that the restrictions will come in later this year.

The full report is available here.

Councillors also agreed to £2.5 million of funding for Farnham to deliver a ‘quick wins’ transport project:

  • In North Farnham, the ‘quick wins’ will tackle the impacts of HGV and speeding traffic through the area.
  • In South Farnham, ‘quick wins’ will tackle the impacts of speeding traffic in the area, and enhanced signage to further reduce the likelihood of bridge strikes at the Wrecclesham railway bridge.

Cabinet also agreed to detailed studies looking at potential A31 improvements and possible bypasses.

County Hall

Cabinet also agreed the proposed sale of County Hall in Kingston. This is in line with the council’s ‘agile working’ strategy that will save around £3m per year, locate all offices within the county and reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2030. Full report available here.

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