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Opinion: Surrey Can’t Afford Four More Years Of Tory Misrule, Say Lib Dems

Published on: 10 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 25 Apr, 2021

Continuing our series of opinion pieces by the parties standing in the Surrey County Council elections on May 6…..

By Catherine Houston

Chair of the Guildford Liberal Democrats

Surrey County Council has been run by the Conservatives since 1997. Which is why this May’s election centres on one fundamental truth: we simply cannot afford another four years of Conservative misrule.

Catherine Houston Chair of Guildford Liberal Democrat.

The Liberal Democrats are the strongest alternative to the Conservatives at all levels in Guildford Borough, and across Surrey.

Voting Liberal Democrat on Thursday, May 6 is the most powerful tool local people have to replace Surrey’s incompetent and out-of-touch Conservative leadership with councillors who can be counted on to change our county for the better and to stand up for residents.

Liberal Democrat county councillors already make a real difference for their residents, but we want, and need, to do more.

The Conservative record for the past decade has been one of failing local people. Here are some depressing examples:

  • Children’s Services – Twice rated as inadequate by Ofsted after which the Conservatives promptly closed dozens of children’s centres across the county;
  • Waste Disposal – Several useful recycling centres were closed by the Conservatives in Surrey in 2019 and the introduction of household waste charges has triggered a big rise in fly-tipping;
  • Recreation – SCC wasted £300,000 by installing unpopular parking charges at Newlands Corner, only to have to U-turn when the income raised was just £61,000, far short of the £200,000 the Conservatives at SCC had predicted;
  • Social Services – Surrey’s Conservatives have sold off all county care homes to developers, meaning our taxpayer cash now goes to paying higher rates to private care home providers instead (and profits pour into their company directors’ pockets);
  • Management Pay – The annual wage bill for senior staff at Surrey has jumped by £10 million in the past 18 months alone and the Chief Executive is on an eye-watering £220,000-plus, the fourth-highest of any council in England;
  • Cash for Consultants – Surrey spends millions of your council-tax pounds on consultants, including a recent £500,000 in the middle of the pandemic on their unitary authority power-grab, without even once discussing their plans with residents or with the borough/district councils;
  • Property Portfolio – Surrey’s Tories ploughed £425 million of taxpayer money into a risky retail property portfolio, despite the warnings of opposition councillors. Even before Covid wreaked its retail wreckage, £45 million had disappeared off the value of this portfolio;
  • Climate Change – The Conservative record on our environment is shocking, allowing fracking in the Surrey Hills and not committing to net zero carbon emissions before 2050; and
  • Fire Service Cuts – In the past year, the Conservatives have removed seven fire engines, despite warnings that doing so would put lives at risk. Since then, the fire service has had to rely on support from neighbouring areas during major incidents. During last August alone, we went 27 days and 20 nights without enough fire engines to keep Surrey residents safe.

At the national level, things are no better. The Conservatives bungled the response to the pandemic, repeatedly refusing to lockdown until it was too late, costing hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives.

Their extremist version of Brexit has caused havoc for industry and, as soon as the local elections are out the way, they intend to proceed with a planning power grab which will rob local people of the right to object to planning applications, a further threat to our green belt.

It’s time for change. The people, charities and businesses of Guildford and Surrey deserve better. And better is what our excellent local candidates across Guildford offer.

Through our alliance with the Greens, our candidates offer both the best vision for the future of our county and are best placed to defeat the tired and failed Conservative domination at County Hall.

Demand better this May. Vote Liberal Democrat.

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test 3 Responses to Opinion: Surrey Can’t Afford Four More Years Of Tory Misrule, Say Lib Dems

  1. John Perkins Reply

    April 10, 2021 at 9:29 am

    Whilst I fully agree with most of the complaints on the list of SCC’s failures there are a couple I take issue with.

    First, selling off care homes is not necessarily a bad idea. For many years councils paid lower rates for places in private homes than those run by the council. If the council does not own or run any homes then they will be unable to operate that despicable subsidy. Profits made by company directors are easily lost if they fail to provide the service agreed, whereas the massive salaries paid to council functionaries are protected because those paying are forced by law to do so.

    Second, there are many who are yet to be convinced that fracking is inherently evil or that “zero-carbon” is achievable or even a sensible target.

    On the national issues, there is no evidence that the Lib Dems could or would have handled the pandemic better. The argument that lockdown was too late is unscientific. It’s not possible to prove that government action or inaction cost any lives, although it’s very easy to make an unsubstantiated claim that it did.

    Yes, there is evidence that the Conservatives intend to sell the green belt to their developer friends, but why link that to Brexit?

    Furthermore, to describe Brexit as “extremist” is ridiculous. It takes more than one to reach an agreement. In this case, the EU was the other party and it has not shown any inclination to adhere to it, except as a means to disadvantage the UK. I remind Catherine Houston that the vote to leave was democratic and that her party would have overturned it arbitrarily. That position might more accurately be described as extremist.

  2. Peter Waller Reply

    April 13, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    Liberal Democrats, the political party that oppose democracy when a majority voted for Brexit.

    Shouldn’t their new party name be “Liberal Former Democrats”?

    • George Potter Reply

      April 14, 2021 at 9:27 am

      I really have never understood this puerile argument that it was somehow “anti-democratic” to oppose Brexit. 48% of the population voted against Brexit (and a majority opposed it by the time of the 2019 election), but allegedly the only “democratic” thing to do was for 100% of MPs and politicians to support a bad idea and to fail to represent the tens of millions of people opposed to it?

      Please point me to any other political issue where it is claimed to be “undemocratic” for all different views to be represented and advocated for?

      I am sure Mr Waller holds plenty of views himself where the majority disagree with him, yet one would have to be absolutely stupid to claim that it was anti-democratic for him to advocate for his views.

      George Potter is the Lib Dem candidate for Guildford East in the forthcoming SCC election.

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