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Letter: County Hall Failures? Now Just Read the Facts

Published on: 23 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 23 Apr, 2021

From: Julie Iles

Conservative county council candidate for The Horsleys in the SCC election

In response to: Spooner U-turns Are Bids to Distract From Tory Failures at County Hall

I can no longer let factual inaccuracies go unchallenged in the run-up to the elections. Literature from R4GV makes a number of false claims and Cllr Rigg [R4GV, Holy Trinity] repeats them in his letter.

They say four key services have been rated inadequate, unfailing or unsafe by regulators since 2018. I’ll take each in turn and give you the up-to-date information:

Children’s Services: The Department of Education Childrens’ Commissioner is satisfied that we’re making the right progress with substantial and significant improvements. A report from an Ofsted visit is due to be published in May and it’s a shame that it cannot be in public domain before the election.

Youth Offending Services: On March 22 we announced that The Youth Justice Board (YJB) has commended Surrey on the work to improve its youth justice services and has formally de-escalated Surrey from YJB priority status.

Surrey Fire & Rescue Service: Since the inspection in 2018, we were required to change our operating model to focus on prevention through community safety work. In 2020, that work included:
• 3,033 Home Fire Safety Checks delivered;
• 7.7% decrease in the number of incidents attended by SFRS compared to 2019;
• 46 operational staff recruited;
• Average first response time to critical incidents is 7m14s;
• 60 wellbeing communications shared with staff and volunteers; and
• 50 new vehicles and/or equipment invested in, including £2.2m for seven new fire engines now being built, five fire investigation vans, two boat-towing vans.

Services for Children with Special Educational Needs: In 2016, there was a written statement of action to focus on five key areas.

In May, 2019, a further inspection left just one area for improvement and in December, 2020, DfE and Ofsted confirmed there is no need for any formal monitoring to continue and that we have made clear and sustained progress.

We are the only local authority in the South East to receive this sign-off during the pandemic.

I feel a need to correct mistruths because our most vulnerable families rely on these services and they should have confidence in them.

You are told SCC spent £256,000 on a bid to set up a unitary authority. Along with other top-tier authorities, Surrey was invited to submit a bid to government.

What the commissioned report established was the savings to be made if one, two or three unitary authorities were in place across the county and then how best to make sure local residents had direct representation, perhaps by greater input from parish councils or resident forums.

What they don’t tell you is that each district and borough committed £30,000 (total £330,000) to make their own case for which would be best.

In any event, government are not proceeding with plans to establish any unitary authority for the foreseeable future.

Our finances at SCC are in a strong position, with a balanced budget and no use of reserves. Shame GBC can’t say the same.

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test 5 Responses to Letter: County Hall Failures? Now Just Read the Facts

  1. Andrew Eacott Reply

    April 23, 2021 at 10:58 pm

    It is great to hear from Councillor Iles how SCC services are gradually working their way out of “inadequate” status.

    The obvious question is – why should we trust a Conservative council that let the services get into that state in the first place? And why did it take concerns raised by external inspectors before SCC recognised the need to improve?

    I have no particular party affiliation but it’s very disappointing to see the majority of local political candidates more interested in mudslinging than in offering concrete and positive proposals for what they would actually do if elected.

  2. Colin Cross Reply

    April 24, 2021 at 12:34 pm

    Here we go again, “factual inaccuracies, false claims, mistruths ” supposedly abound in Cllr
    Riggs letter, or do they? Ms Iles defends the four key SCC services that have been rated inadequate since 2018 by providing details of their subsequent improvements,

    And her point is?

    Nobody has said that there has not been progress across these problem areas, they could hardly have got much worse. She fails to disproof the fact that these four services were rated either inadequate, unsafe or failing since 2018, end of story.

    She then chooses to cherry-pick other points to query, again without merit, but singularly fails to address SCC’s massive salary inflation since 2017 (they now have 26 senior officers on £250,000 plus per annum).

    Cllr Rigg’s points were all accurate and fully researched and for Ms Iles to try and claim otherwise is wholly disingenuous and might be ranked by some as dirty politics.

    Colin Cross is the R4GV candidate for The Horsleys in the forthcoming SCC election.

  3. Julie Iles Reply

    April 25, 2021 at 3:29 pm

    Cllr Cross really should check before saying things are accurate and fully researched. Details of senior salaries are in the public domain on this link: https://www.surreyi.gov.uk/dataset/2rd6w/senior-salaries

    For the latest figures, 2019-20, only one officer earned between £230-235K that being the CEO and approval was given by full council.

    He makes his own point about cherry-picking data and surely that is what Cllr Rigg has also done in using out of date information as the basis of claims about service performance?

    It may serve them to reflect that under the existing inspection framework SEND cannot be judged inadequate and the service was never deemed unsafe. There was one area of weakness that we have fully addressed. Still, lump everything together and sling a bit of mud to see what sticks eh?

    Now back to the R4GV promise to Amend the Local Plan – how’s that going? If you can’t deliver on that and you can’t add up how many people earn what salaries why should residents trust you to deliver county-wide services?

    As for dirty politics that’s a bit rich coming from a councillor who emailed residents saying that my surname was a coded and unfortunate anagram.

    Julie Iles is the Conservative candidate for The Horsleys in the forthcoming SCC election

  4. David Roberts Reply

    April 25, 2021 at 3:54 pm

    I have been asking in vain on Nextdoor why Surrey council never object to damaging planning applications on environmental or infrastructure grounds (especially traffic) as they are supposed to do by statute.

    Cllr Iles’s only reply is that the council are bound, on the one hand, by central government rules and, on the other, by Guildford council’s responsibility for planning in general, so apparently cannot do anything.

    Cllr Furniss, Tory candidate for Shalford, Surrey cabinet member for highways and, before that, deputy leader of Guilford council when the Local Plan was pushed through, has not commented.

    Isn’t the truth that the Conservatives are just too stale and compromised by links to developers to do anything about our foul air and traffic gridlock, having been in power in government for 11 years, in Surrey for nearly 30 and in Guildford (up to 2019) for almost as long?

  5. Elizabeth Daly Reply

    April 27, 2021 at 12:20 am

    Julie Iles is too modest about her four years as county councillor for the Horsleys.

    Here are just four things she failed to stop her Conservative colleagues from imposing on residents in the Horsleys during her term of office:

    1. SCC’s systematic running down and closure of Ripley School
    2. The Housing Secretary’s authorisation of the 295-home Berkeley Homes Green Belt grab – and now they want 110 more
    3. GBC Conservatives’ Local Plan, including the Wisley new town and massive Green development around West Horsley, and
    4. SCC’s closure of 29 children’s centres including a satellite centre in Ripley.

    As for SCC’s proposal for a remote and unaccountable Surrey-wide unitary authority, that has not gone away. It has merely been deferred for a year – conveniently until after the elections.

    The PwC model – which SCC also part-funded through its contributions to a PwC report for the higher tier authorities organisation – established nothing that we didn’t already know. A simplistic linear fixed/variable cost model will always make larger organisations appear more efficient than smaller ones. The PwC model conveniently ignores the non-linear diseconomies of scale which invariably result from large organisations.

    Oh, and the roads are still as bad and as dangerous as ever.

    Elizabeth Daly is the Liberal Democrat candidate for The Horsleys in the forthcoming SCC election.

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