Local committee funding slashed as Surrey County Council faces £24m overspend

Redhill East Green County Councillor Jonathan Essex has today criticised Conservative-run Surrey County Council for making huge cuts to the Reigate & Banstead Local Committee budget, at the same time as the County Council announced a projected £24m overspend for the current financial year.

 

In 2016/17, the Reigate & Banstead Local Committee had a total revenue and capital budget of £610,371; this has been reduced to just £77,272 for the new financial year – a cut of 87%. The capital funding has been cut from £336,508 to £36,000 (an 89% cut) – with local structural repairs to roads (local repairs to roads, alongside pothole repairs, before whole road resurfacing is carried out) cut to zero, and that for road improvements dropped from £168,000 to £36,000 this year. Details of the revenue budget, cut by 81% in Reigate and Banstead are included in the table below.

Overall, the revenue and capital budget for Local Committees across the county has been reduced from a total of £5.65 million to just £850,000, a reduction of 85%. Furthermore, the County Council has completely removed the funding for community initiatives and local enhancements from the Local Committee.

Extract from June 21 Local Committee Report for Reigate and Banstead, p31. Revision to the revenue spending on roads in 2017/18.

The cuts coincide with the latest budget monitoring report from Surrey County Council (presented at the Cabinet meeting on 27 June 2017), which forecasts a £24 million overspend, caused by failure to reach savings targets and overspending within the Children and Families Department.

Cllr Essex said: “These cuts to budgets, which include routine maintenance of our roads, drain clearance and highway tree care are hugely disappointing and a false economy. By delaying preventative repair work to our roads, we simply let the problems worsen; they then require more expensive full-scale road reconstruction work further down the line. I am also concerned at the effect these cuts will have on road safety, as poor road surfaces and pot holes have a huge impact on driver and cyclist safety.”

Countryside Review

The County Council aims to spend £350,000 less through its ‘Countryside Review’ this year, reducing by two-thirds, to around £100,000, the money for signage, keeping trails and tracks clear and usable, keeping Surrey’s countryside open and welcoming for all.

Cllr Essex added:

“It is also disappointing to see budgets that would improve our local environment and countryside also being cut. Worryingly, the Conservative administration seems more interested in maximising commercial opportunities in the countryside than investing in and protecting what we have already got.

“Overall, the County Council faces another difficult year of cuts to services and overspends in departments which are under an incredible amount of pressure to deliver government-imposed savings. The government’s austerity policy is clearly selective, as we have just seen the release of a huge £1 billion in order for the Conservative-DUP pact to succeed. All regions of the UK should be treated fairly when it comes to public spending and residents here in Surrey will be amazed to see the government finding money down the back of the sofa simply to stay in office, while services here are cut to the bone”.

ENDS

Footnotes
1. Latest council budget monitoring report tabled at the Surrey County Council cabinet meeting on 27th June 2017
https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/documents/b17440/Budget%20monitoring%20report%20Tuesday%2027-Jun-2017%2014.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=9
2. A Local Committee is the committee focusing on local issues in each of the county’s borough and district areas. One main responsibility is prioritising spending to maintain and improve transport networks locally.
3. Reigate and Banstead Local Committee agenda
4. The Cuts to the Rights of Way budget are mentioned on the Equality Impact Assessment – but have not been reviewed either publicly, or at any meeting of the Council to date. This concludes that “Some rights of way may have to be closed until funds can be found to repair them, structures in need of repair on a right of way are most likely to cause paths to be closed” and that the “Inability to maintain some paths will adversely impact people who aren’t able to walk so well.

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