Fringe Box



A Kingston View: Standing Up for Surrey? You Decide

Published on: 24 Mar, 2017
Updated on: 27 Mar, 2017

What happens in our county council, in County Hall at Kingston, has a direct impact on us just as much as decisions taken in the borough council.

In this column Keith Witham, Conservative county councillor who represents Worplesdon division reflects on this week’s motion of no confidence in the council leader David Hodge…

Cllr Keith Witham

By Keith Witham

At the Surrey County Council meeting last week the Liberal Democrats proposed  a vote of no confidence in the leader of the council, David Hodge. But the move rebounded on them.

By strongly lobbying the government for more money for Surrey, David Hodge was doing exactly what he should be doing. And we learned at that meeting that there will be some £20 million extra from the government for adult social care in Surrey in the next three years.

Okay, not enough, but £20 million more than we had before. So most people took the view, “Well done to Cllr Hodge for trying and for standing up for Surrey residents,” and the vote of no confidence, and the arguments of the Lib Dems,  were roundly rejected.

Some weeks ago, when I watched the Surrey Liberal Democrat leader being interviewed on TV the day after it was announced that a 15% Council Tax increase might have to be considered her pathetic response was:  “We need to ask the government for more money.”

She knew perfectly well that the leader of the council and others have been, for months, lobbying the government, as well as all our Surrey MP’s, to make them aware of the severe financial problems that Surrey has – because of the continued reduction in government grants, and more and more reliance on council tax payers.

I can’t speak for other areas, but I know that both Anne Milton MP (Guildford) and Jonathan Lord MP (Woking) both supported the Surrey case, and will continue to do so.

My own MP, Jonathan Lord [Worplesdon is part of Woking constituency] was outstanding in supporting David Hodge and Surrey, but then Jonathan is himself a former Surrey county councillor, so knows more about the background and complexities of local government finance.

At the council meeting this week, I referred to three letters that David Hodge, leader of Surrey County Council, had sent to the government:

  • October 17 2016 to the Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid, in which he rejected the government’s proposal to impose a £17 million tax on Surrey Council Tax payers. In other words when the government grant to Surrey reaches £nil, it should become a negative amount and that after that Surrey Council Tax payers should pay £17 million a year to the Government.    That is unfair and wrong.
  • Secondly, his letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond MP, sent on October 24 in which he sets out the financial position of SCC in some detail and with proposals for Surrey to be treated more fairly.
  • And thirdly, his letter to the Prime Minister Theresa May MP dated November 25 warning of “serious damage to services that our residents expect to be delivered”.

In the debate I challenged the Surrey Advertiser newspaper to publish these letters in full in their newspaper, so that readers can read them and decide for themselves if David Hodge was doing his job and standing up for the residents of Surrey.  So far, they have failed to do so, or even refer to that request.

So I am including those three letters [see below] in this article so that readers of The Guildford Dragon NEWS can read them for themselves, and judge their content and tone.

You will see that out of those three letters in the letter of 17th October to the chancellor of the exchequer three lines have been “redacted” or blacked out, in accordance with “Freedom of Information” laws.

I don’t know the reasons, but usually when correspondence is published it excludes personal details (names, emails phone numbers etc ) or matters that are referred to involves contracts or that are commercially sensitive.

I also referred to a recent editorial column in the Surrey Advertiser, referring to the national publicity about Surrey and referring to David Hodge’s “15 minutes of fame” which I thought was a remark unworthy of a newspaper.

In my view David Hodge, as the leader of Surrey County Council, has been doing exactly what he should have been, and that is lobbying the government and our MP’s on behalf of the residents of Surrey to get a better financial deal from the government for Surrey, and for funding that is fair. Not special treatment for Surrey, but fair, given the demands that exist in our County.

For examples do read my previous article on this website The County Council Needs Fairer Funding To Carry Out Its Responsibilities about adult social care and in particular learning disabilities funding.

And if  Cllr David Hodge had not been doing all the above, I would have been first  in the queue asking him, “Why not?”

Share This Post

Responses to A Kingston View: Standing Up for Surrey? You Decide

  1. Ciaran Doran Reply

    March 25, 2017 at 7:58 am

    What a long winded reply to attempt to justify the mismanagement of our services to the tune of £123 million pounds.

    The Conservatives have been in control of our finances for a very long time and they spend money on increasing councillor allowances while shutting down care homes.

    It is quite unbelievable that Cllr Witham tries to blame someone else.

  2. George Potter Reply

    March 26, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Let’s be honest here. Council leader Hodge, with the full backing and connivance of Tory councillors, threatened Surrey residents with a 15% council tax rise in a failed attempt to blackmail the government for more money.

    As a result of this thousands of people worried about how they’d be able to pay their increased council tax bills and all CllHodge has to show for his efforts is 5% council tax increase and £123 million of cuts to public services which are going ahead anyway.

    Incidentally, as part of those cuts will the Conservative council leadership be handing back the 60% increases in “special responsibility” allowances they awarded themselves a couple of years back? No, I didn’t think so somehow.

    This whole fiasco is typical of the Conservative party: put the party first and the people they claim to represent a very distant second.

    Surrey deserves better than this.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *