Greens slam Surrey Conservatives’ budget cuts and secrecy

Commenting on the Conservative budget that was passed by Surrey County Council today, Cllr Jonathan Essex, Green County Councillor for Redhill East, said:

“Today’s budget debate was a sham, with the Conservatives choosing to suddenly drop their proposal for an unaffordable and unfair council tax rise of 15%. But no new money was announced, so perhaps they are just crossing their fingers and hoping that their Conservative colleagues in government will recommit to properly funding councils in the next few weeks. In the mean time, Conservatives have given themselves permission to make up to £123 million of cuts to council services.

“Tory councillors have failed to share their plans for £93 million secret cuts. Failing to share any details as to which services will be affected is an appalling dereliction of their duty to act on behalf of the residents who elected us. Plus this budget still has a £30 million black hole – still completely undefined, which needs to be filled.

“The Conservative Government needs to come forward with additional money to properly fund vital council services across the country, which will also mean that Surrey’s finances are sustainable in the long-term. We can then shift from an agenda of austerity and secret council cuts to local government being freed to focus instead on improving quality of life for all of our residents.”

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Surrey County Council plans 15% council tax hike

Surrey County Council wants to raise its Council Tax by 15% in the next financial year. The proposal will be tabled at the annual budget-setting meeting on 7 February.

Any Council Tax increase of more than 2% must be put to residents to vote. So if this is agreed, a referendum will take place on 4 May, alongside the local elections.

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Tackling homelessness locally – our response

Reigate and Banstead Borough Council recently consulted on its proposed new Homelessness Strategy.

The Council’s review highlights two underlying problems that are making homelessness worse in Reigate and Banstead:

  • increased termination of private rented tenancies, and
  • rising rent prices and a persistent lack of affordable homes.

We responded, welcoming the measures set out in their proposed strategy, including the reduced use of bed and breakfast (B&B) accommodation.

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The Autumn Statement: my response

I had hopes for the Autumn Statement. The Local Government Association and Surrey County Council had talked up the massive funding gap to local councils and social care, which is making 4% a year council tax rise the new normal. And the UK government had, just a week ago ratified the Paris Climate Change Agreement. I heard the words ‘fiscal reset’ and ‘new chancellor’ and hoped this might indicate a change of direction in response to the concerns raised by Councils.

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Let’s buy the Belfry: a chance to change Redhill for the better

Redhill’s Belfry Shopping Centre is up for sale. I wrote to the Council Leader, Cllr Vic Broad, proposing that the Council should buy it. I’d be interested to hear residents’ views on this – please get in touch and let me know what you think.

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Surrey County Council unanimously supports Green Motion on restoration of mining sites

Surrey County Councillors voted unanimously to support a motion calling for high standards of restoration of mineral sites across the county.

The motion was tabled by Green County Councillor Jonathan Essex, who represents Redhill East.

In introducing the motion, Cllr Essex said,

“Surrey has lots of quarries, active and historic.

“National planning policy requires quarrying to be considered as a temporary activity, and sites to be restored afterwards to what they were before.

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Surrey Greens call for £177m pension investments to be moved from fossil fuels

Green Party Councillor Jonathan Essex has called upon Surrey County Council’s Pension Fund to change the way it does its business.

Cllr Essex, who attended the latest meeting of the Fund this week, highlighted the financial case for considering a more sustainable investment strategy

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Surrey Pension Fund urged to divest from fossil fuels

On Friday 23 September, Green Cllr Jonathan Essex is raising questions at a meeting of the Surrey Pension Fund Committee about their continued investment in climate-wrecking fossil fuels [1]. Surrey pension fund members and Divest Surrey campaigners will be there to show support for calls to divest from fossil fuels.

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Why we’re standing up for the Green Belt

Reigate & Banstead Borough Council is consulting on new development management policies that include potentially allowing up to 1,400 new homes to be built in the Green Belt.

You can view the Council’s proposals and submit your comments online – or visit an exhibition to see the plans and meet planning officers. Details of both are on this page

East Surrey Green Party is holding a public meeting to discuss the proposals. All are welcome.

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Council Motion: Surrey needs to listen to residents and repair divisions

Jonathan Essex, County Councillor for Redhill East, will move a Motion at the Surrey County Council meeting on 12 July, inviting the Council to respond to the challenges posed by the result of the recent EU referendum.

The text of the Motion is as follows:

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