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SCC Chief Repeats Backing for Single Authority But Pledges to ‘Work’ with Other County Leaders

Published on: 27 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 29 Jul, 2020

Map showing those areas of England that are already unitary authorities but none are are populous as Surrey.

By Martin Giles

Tim Oliver, leader of Surrey County Council has repeated his belief in a single unitary authority (UA) after leaders of the county’s 11 borough and district councils met and agreed unanimously to present an alternative plan for the reorganisation of local government.

In Guildford, Joss Bigmore, leader of the second biggest group on the borough council, Residents for Guildford & Villages, has backed council leader Caroline Reeve.

Both groups of local Conservatives at GBC have remained silent, as has Guildford’s Conservative MP Angela Richardson. The Guildford Greenbelt Group have expressed reservations about any unitary authority proposal and the Labour group favour a three-authority solution.

In a statement to The Dragon NEWS, Cllr Oliver said: “We want to provide Surrey residents with much better value for money and give them more power at a very local level, with services run by one council that is simpler for them to access. That is the vision I have outlined to the Secretary of State.

“That is a council that can plan strategically for the whole county, while properly engaging and empowering people in the distinct local communities close to home that they will recognise, our towns, neighbourhoods and villages.”

SCC Leader Tim Oliver and GBC Leader Caroline Reeves

But a letter signed by all 11 borough and district leaders and also sent to Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick states: “There is a commitment by Surrey boroughs and district councils to consider the merits of unitary government and a view that this represents a potential way forward.

“There are a number of principles that need to underpin any future models for local government in Surrey and we believe it is essential that multi unitary models are fully analysed before any conclusions are drawn about the structure of potential unitary authorities in Surrey.”

Cllr Oliver’s statement continued: “In my view, the conversations should centre on how we can build on the fantastic work local communities do, and have done, particularly during the past few months, and how we can create forums for people to take local decisions that reflect local opinions, with proper funding to enable them to shape their own place.

“Local planning applications is a good example of something that should be shaped in the community, and that will be included as part of the proposals for further devolution.

“The current system of local government doesn’t do this well enough in my view. Splitting up the historic and recognisable county of Surrey and breaking up critical county-wide services would be hugely damaging and further restrict the county’s opportunities rather than unleash our potential.

“There will of course be much debate around this issue and I am keen to work constructively with residents and all partners across Surrey to deliver the right solution for the residents of our wonderful county.”

The letter from the 11 council leaders concludes with a plea for the Secretary of State to retain an open mind until options are evaluated and an assurance that they did not wish to slow progress: “…please be assured of our commitment to work quickly in seeking a preferred structure. Until a robust evidence base and options appraisal is available, we would urge you to retain an open mind as to the future shape of local government in Surrey.

“We ask that if minded to invite a submission from Surrey County Council, you also invite a business cases submission for alternative models from the combined Districts and Boroughs grouping of Surrey for the future of local government in Surrey.

“Only in this way can you be reassured that any decision about local government reorganisation in Surrey also safeguards the wellbeing of our residents, maximises the future transformation of the area, and secures its contribution to national prosperity.”

Below a full copy of the letter sent by the 11 borough and district councils in Surrey to the Secretary of State for Local Government.

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Responses to SCC Chief Repeats Backing for Single Authority But Pledges to ‘Work’ with Other County Leaders

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    July 27, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    Cllr Tim Oliver is one voice in 1.2 million. I trust he remembers that when he talks of unity.

    • Daniel Andrew Reply

      July 28, 2020 at 2:04 pm

      If we are going to consolidate the councils of Surrey, we should base the unitary HQ in Surrey. Either Guildford or Woking would be preferable due to their central location and size.

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