County Cllr Resigns

Christian Mahne

I was officially told today that Christian Mahne, our county councillor, resigned on Tuesday 17 March 2015 causing a casual vacancy.   A by-election will be called on receipt of a request from two electors within the Weybridge division and, subject to such a request, will be held on 7 May 2015.

He began with great gusto and enthusiasm but as many of you will know that with his illness and other commitments he was not able to fulfill his Surrey role in a way that he would have wished.

Being a councillor is a big commitment and as a councillor myself I understand how much work is involved.  Like Christian, I too have a full time job and I am still surprised how many people think that being a councillor is a career.  Respect to anyone who stands for election – of whatever political stripe – when there is so much cynicism abroad.

Better to serve for one year than to not serve at all.

Police Share of Council Tax

Police-on-patrol-001The Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey, Kevin Hurley, says that following extensive consultation with local residents he has decided to propose a 1.99% increase in the police share of council tax for the coming year, rather than pursue a referendum for a 24% increase.

One of his six priorities as Police and Crime Commissioner is to give local people a greater say in how they are policed. From the beginning of his research into the idea of a referendum on a significant increase in the police share of council tax to mitigate against continued funding cuts and allow us to invest in better policing, he said that it would be the views of the public that would make the decision. It is their money and their police force. A referendum would cost over £1m to hold and he would not put that money on the line if he was not certain that a majority of residents would support the proposed increase.

Having surveyed and spoken to thousands of people over the last few months, it is clear that, whilst there is a consistent level of support from around a third of residents for paying a significantly bigger amount towards policing in their council tax, the majority view remains against that decision and instead in favour of the smaller increase of 1.99%. That has made his final decision on our budget proposals very simple. He says that he is grateful to everyone who has taken the time to have a say.

Money is the biggest issue facing Surrey Police. From his first day in office he has been lobbying the national government to either protect service levels by merging forces or if not, to provide more funding to where it is most needed. We receive the second lowest level of funding per head of population in the country and independent analysis shows that we are losing out on as much as £6m government funding every year that we need to keep the county safe.

Heathside Numbers Increase

Heathside

 

 

 

 

 

For background on Elmbridge school numbers click here.

Although the planning application is placed before Elmbridge as the planning authority, the fundamental issue is that of transport which falls under Surrey as the highways authority.

Surrey’s views have been sought and Surrey has raised no objections to the proposal – subject to a travel plan.  Should Elmbridge refuse planning permission on transport issues alone it would be against the advice of Surrey – as the highway authority.  In that case, Surrey – as the education authority – could appeal to the national government against the decision by Elmbridge.  It is very likely, albeit not certain, that the national government’s inspector would uphold an appeal.

At present, as I understand it, Heathside School has not updated its travel plan since 2009 but Surrey has requested that it be reviewed if this application is permitted.  The people at Surrey who audit travel plans can be contacted here.  The travel plan could do with more than a little stiffening.

You can read the Elmbridge planning officer’s report here: Heathside – Officer Report 2014

Surrey decides whether the proposal meets the policies in Elmbridge’s borough local plan. It cites the policies that it feels are relevant (the three below) and Surrey therefore believes these polcies are met by the proposal.

Com4
Planning permission will be granted for proposals for new educational establishments or extensions to existing facilities provided that: (i) the existing road network is capable of absorbing the level of traffic generated;
(ii) the site is conveniently accessible to all sections of the community by a choice of means of transport;
(iii) adequate provision is made for stopping and parking; and,
(iv) there would not be a significant adverse impact on local residents.

Mov4
All development proposals should minimise the impact of vehicle and traffic nuisance, particularly in residential areas and, as far as practicable, comply with current highway design standards.

Mov10
New development with the potential to generate significant cycle use will be permitted provided that provision is made for:-
(a) safe and convenient cycle access;
(b) secure cycle parking which accords with the adopted standards; and
(c) changing and shower facilities for employees.

Baker Street Plans

As part of the planning conditions, Morrison has to pay for traffic calming in Baker Street.  The draft plans are below and have been sent to Surrey’s transportation development planning team to agree as a condition of the planning permission.  What do you think?

Baker Street Traffic Calming

 

 

 

 

You can open up a larger map here: Draft Baker Street Scheme-01

Borough elections – big changes ahead

ballot-boxThe borough wants to know what you think.  There is a consultation that will last until Sunday, 2 November 2014.  Your comments are welcome  – give your views here.

History
Here is a little background.  Local government elections have been held for centuries – even before there was a parliament in Westminster. In the beginning only men with property could vote but even then there was a debate between those who wanted frequent elections – to keep those elected on their toes – and those who thought that the councillors should be elected for longer than a year in order that they could gain experience in the role.  Eventually a compromise was reached – have elections every year but elect councillors for four years.  This is known as election by thirds.

Recently
There has been a big debate in the borough’s council – how many councillors should there be.  Currently, there are sixty councillors who are intended to represent the approximately 100,000 electors in the borough (there are 132,000 residents).  This means that, on average, there are 1,666 electors for each councillor.

Originally, it had been agreed that although the number of councillors may change the frequency of elections should remain as they are now – by thirds.  In the old days the borough could have changed its representational arrangements and that would have been the end of it.  However, the borough may no longer determine the number of its own councillors – it has to ask the national government to make any changes (more’s the pity).  Therefore the borough sought the intervention of the Boundary Commission to change the number of our councillors – if necessary.

Be careful what you wish for
For the record I voted against asking the Boundary Commission for a review.  In my opinion the main change that is needed is to move from the current “winner takes all” (FPTP) to the “preference voting” (STV) method of elections.  Scotland has STV for local government elections already – hence their higher turnout at election times.  STV gives the electors far more power than FPTP.  So instead of a meaningful change we are getting a great upheaval for very little benefit.

Today
Unfortunately, once we are in the hands of the Boundary Commission we have to play by their rules.  The Boundary Commission has decided – because of its interpretation of the law –   that in boroughs that have elections by thirds, it will begin reviews with a presumption of delivering a uniform pattern of three councillor wards.  It has made this decision because it believes that people do not have the wit to understand how elections work and would be confused if there were elections across the country but none in their locality – another case of dumbing down.

Weybridge
For Weybridge to be fairly represented in Elmbridge borough’s council it requires ten councillors. The town has four wards: two are two member wards and two are three member wards. So if we want elections by thirds we would have to get rid of our two member wards and share wards with Walton and Hersham.  To avoid this we would have to have elections every four years.  A regrettable step in my view.

Regardless of what you want, or the councillors want (of any party) the Boundary Commission will make its recommendation to the national parliament and that parliament will decide.

Regardless of the commission’s proposals, some, if not all, ward boundaries will change because that it what the commission does.  Then there will have to be an extra whole council election.  The earliest date for this election would be May 2016.

Below I have produced a table that should highlight the merits of each types of election.  please tell me if you have any questions or thoughts.  I’ll do my best to answer them.

Options Election by thirds All-up elections
Benefits Greater accountability as councillors are required to engage and defend decisions on a more frequent basis.A potentially greater mix of new and experienced councillors because just after each election there will be new councillors and third year councillors.Voters have a more frequent opportunity of changing the administration.The national political cycle has less effect on the local election results

Greater consistency of councillors by reducing the potential for large scale change at the same time.

Fewer candidates required each year for nominations, thereby reducing the chance of non-contested seats.

Political make-up of the council is potentially more reflective of the changing views of the electorate.

First-time voters and recent incomers may vote within the year.

Wards of different sizes namely three, two [or even single member wards] could be maintained, which might better reflect the diversity of communities that make up the borough.Modest financial savings in the cost of administering elections depending on whether there are other elections (such as Surrey County Council, National or European elections) in that year.The ability for the administration to take a four year view without worrying about an election within a year.All political parties find it difficult to mount elections every year.
Disadvantages As all wards must have three councillors (exceptions may be made in some very special circumstances) the link between wards and village identities could be lost.There is a modest extra cost for administering elections in three years out of four.The administration is always conscious of an election within a year.All political parties struggle to mount campaigns each year. Less accountability as councillors are only required to engage and defend decisions only every four years with the possibility that the most unpopular decisions would be taken at the beginning of the four year term and more popular decisions towards the end of the four year term regardless of what is right for the Borough.It is possible to have a council entirely consisting of new councillors – with no experience.Voters have to wait four years to remove the administration.A full set of councillors required in one year thereby increasing the chance of non-contested seats – especially single member wards.

It is possible for the council to swing dramatically from one political party to another

First-time voters and recent incomers may have to wait up to four years to vote.

 

 

Churchfields Playground

Churchfields Park Playground-wey-soc333Do you want Churchfields Recreation ground play area to be refurbished? Then now is the time to make your voice heard!

Over the next month Elmbridge is going to make the decision whether or not to improve some playgrounds in the borough and if its does whether to include Weybridge’s prime playground on that list.

I want to know if you have any particular rides in mind.  Please complete this questionnaire.

Please email me if you want to support the campaign to have Churchfields play area upgraded.

It would be great if you could forward this email to your friends and anyone you know who has children or grandchildren who play in the park.