Fringe Box



Surrey County Council Cuts Are Unacceptable and Unworkable

Published on: 24 Nov, 2018
Updated on: 26 Nov, 2018

By Brian Creese

Vice-chair of Guildford Labour Party

Earlier this month, Surrey County Council (SCC) launched a series of consultations under the guise of “Transforming Services”, a thinly veiled way of trying to justify the most swingeing cuts in recent history.

SCC has to cut £250 million [not £250,000 as originally stated] from its budget which will bite deep. Most prominently, the “Family Resilience” consultation (there is a great deal of “Resilience” involved in these consultations) proposed withdrawing funding from 37 of the present 58 Children’s Centres in Surrey which will, apparently, allow the county to provide a better service for a wider range of young people.

In Guildford, providing a better service means withdrawing funding from Boxgrove Children’s Centre and St Paul’s C of E Sure Start Centre and reducing services at Ash Grange Sure Start Centre.

Also in need of further resilience are Libraries and Cultural Services, though in these cases the proposals are all about using volunteers to run services rather than professionals.

The options offered for “transforming” the Community Recycling Centres are to close centres and increase charges. We are invited to give our opinions on three options, but all include closing Cranleigh and two options closing Farnham.

Guildford is suggested as an alternative for these options which will inevitably add traffic to Guildford’s already overcrowded road systems and indeed, more waiting time and endless queues on Slyfield. We know that extra cost for using the centres means an increase in fly-tipping, which we can assume will get worse. Sadly, there is no mention of these issues in the consultation.

And finally there is a proposal to take away concessionary bus travel for the disabled before 9.30am and after 11pm, making it more difficult and expensive for the disabled to get to work. This “Transformation” scheme appears to use clever words to gloss over unacceptable cuts to our services.

The consultations are a sham, couched in the language of untruths, peddling fine words to hide the reality of poorer services provided by fewer staff. The real purpose is to shift responsibility onto the people for what is cut. Which Children’s Centre do we want to close? You decide. Which Recycling Centres? You decide. Who loses? You decide.

If austerity has ended, why do we need to do this? SCC needs to go back and embark on radical change which does not involve cutting services for the children, the disabled, or infrastructure that keeps us safe and secure.

They could perhaps start by looking at the inflated salaries for officers and inflated allowances and expenses for councillors.

Shelley Grainger, who has just been elected to the Labour Party South-East Regional Board, said: “I think this consultation is designed to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the cuts because it implies people have agreed to them and shaped the outcome. While we would encourage everyone to respond to the consultations, don’t be taken in by talk of increasing ‘Family Resilience’ and other fine words.

“If you have young children, children with education difficulties, or are disabled and want to hold down a job or simply want to recycle your waste responsibly, these proposals will leave your life poorer.”

As far as Guildford Labour is concerned these cuts are unacceptable and, in all likelihood, unworkable, a testament to a failed council and a failed government.

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Responses to Surrey County Council Cuts Are Unacceptable and Unworkable

  1. Martin Elliott Reply

    November 24, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    I always find it strange that ‘politicians’ don’t check their facts.

    The title webpage on ‘consultations’ says “Over the next year we need to save a further £85m…”, so why is this stated to be ‘only’ £250,000? [That was an error now corrected, it should have read £25 million.] Maybe that’s the cut proposed from one of the areas.

    Apart from that, mostly I agree in principle with Brian but by missing the magnitude of the overall budget cut next year, the major farce of these consultations, apart from not actually offering real choices, is the magnitude of the cuts, or rather lack of magnitude.

    Take, for example, the bus services. SCC spends around £7 million on subsidising buses, mainly to outlying routes. £400k is spent on concessionary passes. The only suggested cuts to disabled passes, maybe around £100k.

    As with the scale of other so-called consultations, it’s less than 5% of the budget cut already calculated.
    Where are the real cuts going to fall? Will Cllr Oliver allow any detail on the budget to be announced for discussion, let alone real consultation?

  2. C Williams Reply

    November 24, 2018 at 10:31 pm

    Brian Cleese shows clearly he doesn’t know what he is talking about by saying SCC has to cut £250,000 in his opening sentence. That would be easy on a budget the size of the county’s! It’s the £85 million they need to cut for 2019-20 that is harder! Does he really think tinkering with a few paper clips, officers salaries and councillor allowances will save £85 million? Cloud cuckoo land is a clearly a nice place to be.

    Response from Brian Creese; “Yes! I meant £250 million! [article corrected] But as I say, that is the three-year figure. I do wonder what will be left to cut by year 3. As anyone who has attempted to respond to the consultations will know, there are no figures attached to these “Transforming Plans”. The Family Resilience consultation, for instance, suggests that the cuts of centres are to make the service better for more children and gives no hint to the actual monetary savings envisaged. Wading through SCC minutes and press releases provides a series of mind-boggling figures for cuts, shortfalls and spending gaps. I took the £250 million figure for a Get Surrey article in May ( which stated this is the target for spending cuts over the next three years. It seems that the figure for this year’s cuts is around £80 – £90 million. But as you point out, the cuts to services such as bus passes will make barely a dent on any of these figures while maximising the misery for those affected.

  3. Robert Shatwell Reply

    November 25, 2018 at 11:04 am

    I totally agree with much of what Mr Creese says and congratulations to him.

    I question why, if the county council are holding a consultation, do we have to learn about it through good decent people such as Mr Creese and not from our local county councillors. Perhaps the answer would be that too many people believe that councillors get too much money for doing too little.

    If they are serious about saving money they should cut the pay and lucrative expenses of the councillors and council officers.

    Will they do that? Of course not. They can’t suffer cuts but the poor and needy can.

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