Surrey County Council consultations

Spelthorne Borough Council has sent comprehensive responses to Surrey County Council's consultations

The consultations, which ended on 4 January 2019, propose changes to five County Council service areas: children's centres, concessionary bus fares, special educational needs and disability (SEND), libraries and cultural services, and community recycling centres (CRCs).

Responses to four of the consultations were sent on behalf of a Health and Wellbeing Group chaired by the Borough, and the consultation on CRCs was sent from Council Leader, Cllr Ian Harvey.

The main issues we have highlighted in our responses are as follows:

Children's Centres:

The Group strongly oppose proposals to close four of the Borough's six children's centres.

These centres provide a vital service to some of the most vulnerable families in the Borough and, since Spelthorne has the highest deprivation score in Surrey with pockets of deprivation within the whole of the Borough, the Group believe that there should be a minimum of three main centres. The current proposal is for there to be two main centres plus two 'satellite' centres.

Whilst the Group welcomes the proposal to broaden the support to enable vulnerable children up to eleven years old and their families to get help, they expressed concern that fewer children and low income families would be supported under the proposals. The Group believes that would represent a false economy because reducing preventative support could lead to a greater cost to the community in the long run.

The Group would also like to see more detail on the criteria that will be used for people to access these services.

Concessionary Bus Travel:

The proposals are for Surrey to offer the statutory scheme without the current enhancements that give more flexibility about when eligible people can travel and extend benefits to some carers. The Group highlighted the known benefits of concessionary travel and the implications of giving elderly and disabled people less flexibility about when they can travel.

SEND:

The Group welcome the proposals to intervene earlier, work more collaboratively, increase capacity, invest in specialist school places and increase support for older children and young people but have expressed misgivings about the lack of transparency in the documentation about the savings that need to be made (for example by slashing the transport budget) and failure to commit to funding beyond the next two years.

Libraries:

The consultation sought views on five 'Strategic Principles'. The Group agree with the principles of the strategy but believe that there is insufficient detail on how these principles will work in practice.

Other matters raised include:

  • given that the aim is to cut spend per head of population by about 30%, some libraries must be under threat and we have urged Surrey CC to be more transparent about this
  • concern was raised about how usage figures are calculated and whether these just relate to books borrowed and not the myriad of other reasons people might visit libraries such as for accessing the internet, attending groups or seeking advice from agencies such as CAB
  • questioned whether the principles mean that a less well used library in a deprived area would be more likely to stay open given that one of the stated aims is that Leisure and Cultural Services be targeted in particular to "the most vulnerable" in our communities
  • that libraries in Spelthorne may be close to each other geographically but the transport links between the towns are challenging and this needs to be taken into account

Community recycling centres

A response to this consultation was sent from Spelthorne Borough Council and not the borough's Health and Wellbeing Group.

Proposed changes to Community Recycling Centres (CRC) include the following:

  • permanently closing a number of smaller and less effective CRCs, whilst increasing the opening hours at some CRCs
  • introducing a charge to dispose of construction wood and felt
  • increasing the cost of disposing of items already charged for
  • charging an annual application fee for van, pickup and trailer permits

Spelthorne Borough Council believes that some of the options proposed in the consultation exercise are a practical way forward to addressing the County's financial pressures. However, we do not believe that there is enough clarity, detail or evidence available publicly in respect of the proposals which have been put forward within the consultation exercise on proposed changes to Surrey's Community Recycling Centres

Specifically:

  • we are concerned that funding reductions merely shift the onus and cost from Surrey CC to districts and boroughs
  • although Charlton Lane CRC has not been singled out for changes, we believe there will be a direct impact on Shepperton and the wider borough from proposed changes to the site in Lyne and possibly Bagshot including increased traffic (leading to issues with air quality, noise and road safety), and the potential to increase fly-tipping
  • in terms of introducing further charges, we have urged Surrey CC to ensure a clear communication plan is in place to prevent confusion. The decision to introduce some charges for residents in 2016 led to a lot of confusion and concerns which culminated in a deluge of complaints and queries to Spelthorne BC
  • we are not opposed to a charge for annual permits for vans, pickup trucks and trailers but have concerns about inadvertent discrimination of residents who do not have access to a car. We also believe that there is a further potential for fly-tipping from those who do not agree with the charge or fly-tip spontaneously because they are unaware of the permit scheme

Councillor Ian Harvey, Leader of the Council, said: "Whilst we appreciate the County Council's need to make savings, we cannot support proposals which would leave residents without services they need and rely on. We have also expressed overall concerns about how the consultations have been conducted. We think there has been a lack of meaningful engagement which is inconsistent with the level of impact the proposals will have".

Councillor Maureen Attewell, Portfolio Holder for Community Wellbeing, said: "We realise that Surrey County Council is facing unprecedented financial pressure and that means they need to radically change the way they provide services. However we believe that this should not be at the expense of the most vulnerable in our communities.

Surrey County Council also needs to flesh out these proposals so that our residents understand the full implications. As always, the devil is in the detail".

pdf icon Spelthorne Council's response to SCC proposals for CRCs [308kb]

pdf icon Spelthorne Council's Health and Wellbeing Group response [128kb]