Surrey Wildlife Trust budget plan must be released

Greens called for Surrey County Council and Surrey Wildlife Trust to release the budget plan and vision for Surrey today.

This followed meetings at County Hall where concerned residents sought reassurances over the future of the Trust, its resources and the implications of Surrey County Council withdrawing its funding.

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Surrey Greens call for waste disposal charges to be dropped

Green county councillor Jonathan Essex has repeated his call for Surrey County Council to scrap its unpopular charges for disposal of waste at Community Recycling Centres.

This follows a meeting at County Hall where a petition signed by more than 7,000 people calling for the charges to be scrapped was discussed with the Cabinet Member for Environment and Highways.

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Statement on Surrey Conservatives’ ‘gentleman’s deal’ with the Government

David Hodge, leader of Surrey County Council, told Conservative colleagues that he had reached a “gentleman’s agreement” with senior cabinet ministers that persuaded him to cancel a threatened 15% council tax rise.

According to media reports, in a secret recording of a Conservative group meeting on 7 February, Hodge revealed there had been a “series of conversations” with the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, and a meeting with the chancellor, Philip Hammond.

He apparently said he had struck a deal with the government before scrapping the proposed 15% council tax hike.

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Green councillor calls for more affordable housing

On 9 February, Councillor Steve McKenna moved a Motion calling on Reigate & Banstead Borough Council to agree that publicly-owned sites should deliver higher levels of affordable housing than is required for the Borough as a whole.

The Motion also asked the Council’s new Property Company to invest in affordable housing.

See the Motion on the Council Agenda

As is the Council’s usual way, the Motion was referred to the Executive with no debate.

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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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