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.

Tories slash Surrey education funding by £250 million

HeathsideConservatives will cut the education budget by £253 million in Surrey by 2020 if they were in national government on their own, official research shows.

The Tories would be forced to slash local spending on schools,colleges, and nurseries to keep pace with George Osborne’s plan to drastically reduce spending.

The research, based on official House of Commons library figures, shows schools will bear the brunt of Conservative cuts but childcare, college and early years budgets would also be hit hard.

Unlike both Labour and the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats are committed to protecting cradle to college education spending.

Heathside School

Heathside

Surrey is seeking planning permission to raise Heathside’s school numbers. Originally Heathside School was given permission for 920 pupils but by 1996 it had increased its number, without planning permission, to 1352. On being challenged for this discrepancy it sought retrospective planning permission from the borough to increase its number in 2005. This was refused, again on transport grounds. Surrey appealed to the national government and the government planning inspector agreed to a new maximum number of pupils (the actual number attending the school at that time) on condition that the travel plan be reviewed every six months. This is a very weak condition as most travel plans are often lax in the beginning and are often unenforceable in any case.

This new planning application is caused by the need for more school places in the borough. Elmbridge has a secondary school age population of 12,000 pupils and that number is growing. Births in Elmbridge increased by 30% between 2002 and 2010 and the
borough plan indicates that up to 3,375 new homes are to be built between 2011
and 2026.  Yet Elmbridge has only four secondary schools – in Ditton (Hinchley Wood), Esher, Hersham (Rydens) and Weybridge (Heathside). It needs ten more schools of 840 pupils each (four classes in each year from years seven to thirteen).

Because of the taxation arrangements in Britain – unique in the developed world – Surrey relies on the national government for revenues to fund new schools. Unfortunately, this revenue has been reduced significantly in recent times and Surrey simply does not significant revenues of its own to build the schools it needs. So Cobham, Molesey and Walton do not have their own schools – putting pressure on those towns like Weybridge that do.

The cheap option is to increase the size of the present schools.  Heathside, originally a large 940 pupil school that has grown to 1,352 is set, should the application be successful, to increase to 1,475 pupils.

Elmbridge’s remit is purely related to the planning aspects of the project not the merits or otherwise of increasing the size of a school that has already outgrown its buildings.  This particular application will be decided on highway matters alone.

Interestingly, Elmbridge is not the competent authority when it comes to highway planning matters.  Surrey is the highway authority as well as the education authority.

The planning application is originated from Surrey which has a duty to school all of the children of the county.  The application arrives at Elmbridge which in turn asks Surrey, as highway authority, what it thinks of the application.

This puts Surrey in a difficult position – it is both poacher and gamekeeper.  Its decision must not just be one based on integrity but must be seen to be so by those most affected by the increase in numbers.

Any parent who has been anxious about their child’s school place will understand the massive pressure that Surrey is under to deliver those classroom places.

The Elmbridge planning application number is 2014/3765 and details can be found here.

Elmbridge Cycling Strategy

CyclingEvery time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.  H G. Wells

Cllr Margaret Hicks, who represents Hersham at Surrey and is also the chair of Surrey Elmbridge Local Committee, has been keen to develop strategies in a number of areas under her purview.  This is all to the good in my opinion – it aids joined up thinking for one.

Margaret has already begun on a parking strategy and now it is the turn for the committee to develop a joint Surrey/Elmbridge strategy for cycling in the borough.

Vision  An Elmbridge of physically, mentally and spiritually healthy people of all ages enjoying fresh air and a high quality of life.

Mission To enable all the people of Elmbridge – who wish to do so – to cycle safely.

Strategy
To achieve our mission our strategy is based on our being:

  • Utilitarian. We focus on a person’s ability to cycle from home to the key places that make their life work: their school or workplace, their station, their town centre. Therefore routes to these places are dealt with first.
  • Network based. We understand that the benefits are far greater if networks are created
  • Inclusive.  We bring as many agencies, organisations and groups and people together to compound the benefits and spread the message.
  • Incremental. Although we have a clear and ambitious vision we know that many small steps made by many people eases the journey
  • Anticipatory. We take advantage of possible opportunities that might arise by anticipating requirements before they occur
  • Communicative. We engage with everyone and keep them informed
  • Sustainable. We strive to be socially and environmentally sustainable in everything that we do.

What would you like to see in a cycling strategy?

When I see most parents cycling with their children to primary school then I know we’d have cracked it.  It is much quicker to cycle than walk – although walking can be fun too.

All my family are fortunate enough to walk to school/work as they are so close.

Surrey Allowance Increases

money-43Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Surrey Liberal Democrats wrote to the Secretary of State asking him to investigate the excessive increases (from £27,000 pa to £43,000 pa) in councillor allowances and the excessive number of special responsibility allowances pushed through by Surrey’s Conservative administration. She also asked him to check whether the national government’s own regulations had been followed by the Surrey administration.

Cllr Watson said : “I am delighted with the response I have received from Brandon Lewis, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to my letter. He has condemned the decisions on councillors allowances as “deeply concerning” and agrees with me that Surrey did not comply with government regulations. He has stated that the national government expects those in public life to show restraint and to set levels of allowances for councillors and remuneration for officers which reflect the pressure on budgets and the need to pay off the deficit left by the last national administration. I totally agree with his comments.

“Given the national government’s clear condemnation of the decisions and also the outrage expressed by the Surrey people who have to foot the bill, I am again calling on Surrey’s Conservative administration to overturn their decisions on councillors allowances and replace them with something much more reasonable.

“Surrey’s Conservative administration is living in cloud cuckoo land if they think that they can get away with these outrageous councillor allowances. It is time for them to back down and admit they made a massive mistake to the detriment of the Surrey people.”

To read the letters to and from the national ministers click here.

Surrey’s 2014 Parking Proposals

Double-yellow-lines-on-a-road-and-pavement-curb-2101582

Many of you will remember that I reported last February about Surrey’s progress on parking proposals in Weybridge.  At that time I was told that Surrey was considering parking changes in the following streets: Beales LaneChurch StreetElmgrove RoadGascoigne RoadOakdale RoadPortmore Park Road and Thames Street.  

I invited people to add their street if parking was of concern to them.  In April I reported that Surrey staff would be ready to recommend changes to the Surrey Local Committee in late May.  Three proposals have made it through:

Elmgrove Road – to extend the hours of operation of parking bays to 9:00 to 18:00 to improve parking amenity for residents (in Elmgrove Road).

Portmore-Thames

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portmore Park Road junction with Thames Street.  The introduction of at any time restrictions on both corners of the junction.

68 Portmore Park-01

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portmore Park Road around the traffic island near number 68.  The introduction of at any time restrictions on both sides of the street.

Other proposals in the town are: in Brooklands Road, Daneswood Close, Grove Place, Hanger Hill, High Street, Julian Hill, Locke King Road, Pine Grove, Queens Road, Rosslyn Park.

The report going to the Surrey Local committee can be found here.  Detailed map can be found here.

I have just been appointed to this committee so I would welcome any comments that you have – the first meeting is on Monday, 16 June 2014.  It will not be too late afterwards.

Traffic Diversion Via Weybridge Planned

New Zealand Avenue websiteThe good news is that Surrey plans to resurface New Zealand Avenue from Bridge Street (A3050) to Ashley Park Avenue (D3861).  Also good news, for drivers at least, is that the work will be done at night – between 20:00 and 6:30.

Not so good for the residents but the plan is to take only ten nights from Monday, 19 May. Access will be maintained for pedestrians and emergency vehicles at all times.

Bizarrely,  the diversion is via Hersham and Weybridge (4.3 miles) rather than Walton High Street and Hepworth Way (0.5 mile).  Perhaps Surrey’s satnav wasn’t working.

Old Heath Road Puddle

Sue Bohane Old Heath Road websiteA many of you know, there has been a large puddle outside the station in Old Heath Road for over thirty years.  Liberal Democrat candidate for Weybridge South Sue Bohane had the drain cleaned out but the problem is more deep-seated than that. So working with Weybridge’s Cty Cllr Christian Mahne we have got closer to a remedy.

Cllr Mahne has arranged with Surrey highways to find the budget to fix the problem in the financial year 2014/15.   The main drain has an ineffectual gradient and Surrey highways decided that relaying the main drain would be too expensive.

Cllr Mahne tells me that the lesser of two evils was to create a new soakaway instead of digging the thing up and extending a new drain.  A new soakaway will be located in the hillside separating the highway with the station. It’s taken so long because the prevailing wisdom had always been to spend the money on the areas that affected the most people – roads basically – and all the other niggles fell by the wayside including this one.

It’s going to cost something like £26k (highways think).  Cllr Mahne will be part funding it with his highways allocation but highways are just sorting out the finance for the rest of it at the moment.

National Coalition offers 4.5% Extra School funding for Surrey

ClassroomSurrey Liberal Democrats have warmly welcomed proposals which will see Surrey receive nearly £25 million more in school funding than under the current system. This comes as part of an extra £350million boost to schools in the least fairly funded areas in the country.

The proposals announced in parliament by Liberal Democrat Education Minister David Laws will mean that funding will be allocated to local areas on the basis of the actual characteristics of their pupils and schools, rather than simply on the basis of historic levels of spending.

The proposed changes mean that, on average, schools in Surrey will receive £4,282 per pupil next year, an increase of around 4.5%.

Commenting on the announcement, Cllr Stella Lallement, the Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson on Surrey County council said: “This is fantastic news for Surrey children and is a much needed reform. The school funding system inherited by the coalition was unfair. Labour knew it was unfair, but chose not to act.

“For too long, school funding has been based on historical data that no longer reflects pupils’ needs. Similar schools just miles apart can be funded at very different levels, just because they happen to be in different local authority areas.

“This announcement, along with the pupil premium, will mean that our children can get the education they deserve. It is more evidence that the Liberal Democrats in government are actively implementing policies to build a fairer society.”