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Opinion: County Council Not Working For Residents, Say Labour. Time for Change

Published on: 24 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 28 Apr, 2021

The second of the Opinion pieces from the parties standing in the Surrey County Council election on May 6……

By Howard Smith

Vice-Chair, Guildford Labour and Labour parliamentary candidate in 2017

There’s no doubt Surrey County Council, led for as long as we can all remember by the Conservatives, has been beset with enormous problems which must be fixed. But this can be the election that brings much-needed change.

Our focus will be on rebuilding communities, investing in children’s services, making rapid progress on climate change, sorting out the social care crisis and bringing our fire services back up to standard.

It’s clear the structure of the council is ineffective and the highest-paid council officers are paid too much. We would seek to streamline the administration, make it more transparent and get better value for money.

Howard Smith, vice chair of Guildford Labour Party.

We know the clock is ticking on the climate crisis and we need to take urgent action in partnership with both our community and government. Labour’s Green New Deal goes further than any other party to put green industry and green businesses at the forefront of our efforts.

We need to invest in alternative transport and to make our roads more bike-friendly. We need a plan to encourage more use of public transport, bikes, e-bikes and walking. We need joined-up thinking to get Guildford moving.

The roads are often a disgrace and the pavements are even worse, This under-investment cannot continue.

The town centre has taken a battering from the Covid pandemic and action is needed to revive our historic centre, the High Street, North Street and the interlinking roads, to ensure it prospers again, not just a place for shopping but with amenities to welcome everyone.

We’d like to see help in nurturing local businesses with reduced rates and start-up breaks. Our councillors will look to partnerships to ensure our town centre has a brilliant future.

The Conservatives have decimated our Sure Start and children’s centres, reducing their scope and effectiveness even when not closing them. Let’s face it, it has been a grim four years with children’s services rated as inadequate by Ofsted.

Children’s centres were a great success of the last Labour government, supporting all parents with friendly early help. We would re-invest to bring back as many as we can.

What is needed, especially right now, is catch-up help for our children to take account of time lost during this period of substantial disruption.

Last year, there was a misconceived effort to abolish borough councils, to push through the idea of one unitary authority for the whole of Surrey, an arrogant attempt at a takeover.

We believe the move to unitary authorities is the correct one because we would like to see a simpler, cheaper and more accountable way to run services integrating parish, borough and county councils.

This would result in more integrated services and more coherent policy with fewer bureaucracies to get in the way. But we believe this can be better achieved with three singular authorities for the North, West and East of the county.

That’s better for local democracy and accountability. All the savings made can be used to reinvest in our services.

However you look at it, Surrey County Council is not working for its residents. Wherever you look, social services, care homes, education, recycling centres, libraries, roads, climate change, we see a failing council.

We believe this election is a great opportunity to make a change and bring about the improvements in services you want to see in Guildford. Our simple ask is that you put your faith in Labour this time, and vote Labour.

Only Labour councillors can make the changes we need. Only Labour councillors are capable of pulling Surrey County Council into the modern age. Surrey deserves better. Surrey deserves more Labour councillors.

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