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Surrey’s Local Leaders Campaign to Bond Closer to Communities

Published on: 21 Aug, 2020
Updated on: 21 Aug, 2020

Fearing a fait accompli by the proposal from Surrey County Council for a Surrey wide unitary authority (see Surrey County Council faces battle in bid to scrap borough and district councils), leaders of Surrey’s 11 district and borough councils have launched their “Putting Residents First” campaign saying that they want to transform local government in the county and bring decision-making and services closer to communities.

Borough and district councils in Surrey (source Wikipedia).

They say that they are eager to embrace the anticipated “Recovery and Devolution” White Paper from Westminster this autumn, planned to reform local government.

The council leaders agreed their counter proposals will centre on simplifying and improving local government. All viable options, including multi-unitary solutions, are on the table aimed at replacing the present model where responsibilities are split across different organisations.

Providing residents with easier and local access to all their council services, enabled by digital transformation, will be a key element, as will ensuring the future approach maintains the democratic accountability between councillor and resident remains strong.

The proposals are to be shaped and informed by new thinking, data, insight, research and engagement with residents, focused on a result that:.

  • Remains close to local communities;
  • Takes a “place-based” approach, where services, support, infrastructures, highways and development are influenced by local need rather than a “one size fits all” approach, all scrutinised by local elected representatives;
  • Provides value for money;
  • Is efficient and effective;
  • Makes it easy for different public and private services including councils, health, police, businesses and others to work together;
  • Continues to provide and improve the support and services residents need; and
  • Reflects the geographical and population differences of the county.

Nick Prescott, leader of Runnymede Borough Council.

Cllr Nick Prescott, leader of Runnymede Borough Council and chairman of the Surrey Leaders’ Group, said: “This proposed White Paper on ‘Recovery and Devolution’ is a once in a lifetime opportunity to rethink what we do, how we do it and to put Surrey’s 1.2 million residents squarely at the heart of future local government in Surrey.

“It’s vital we seize this opportunity to make decision-making and services accountable to and representative of our communities. Residents want to build up a working relationship with their local councillors, not be sending them an email in a queue. Local politics demands local expertise where the councillor is close by and responsive.

Cllr Prescott (Con, Englefield Green West) added: “Our proposals must be informed and shaped by the views and ideas of our residents. We want to hear from them and will be asking residents for their views and ideas.We strongly urge government ministers and MPs to keep an open mind and consider all proposals when deciding the future of local government in Surrey.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Guildford Borough Council leader Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) said: “Our residents and businesses are at the heart of everything we do. As their elected representatives, we must ensure they are fully involved with any proposals to change the structure of their local authorities.

“We put our residents and businesses first and serve our communities at a local level every day and our proposals will ensure we continue to make a difference to people’s lives every day.”

This article has been based on a press release from Guildford Borough Council.

(see also The Dragon Says: Forget efficiency and cost cutting, this is a unitary bid for political power)

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test One Response to Surrey’s Local Leaders Campaign to Bond Closer to Communities

  1. John Morris Reply

    August 21, 2020 at 8:41 pm

    Can I see anything in these outline proposals that suggest a much greater engagement with residents than happens at present?

    Turn out by voters in local elections indicates to me a very low level of interest in what councillors or the council do.

    I so hope I am going to be pleasantly surprised when I get to read “Recovery and Devolution” White paper. But I’m not holding my breath!

    John Morris is a member of the Peace Party.

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