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Lib Dems say "Let our residents decide" the future of our local government

September 29, 2020 11:01 AM

Single Unitary for Surrey not the answer - Spelthorne Lib Dems (Photo by Todd Trapani from Pexels)this meeting shows the effectiveness of cross-party working

All the Council Meeting motions can be seen at the end of the article or download them

Spelthorne Liberal Democrats, furious with Surrey County Council's plans to abolish Borough Councils, replacing them with just one Unitary Authority for the whole of Surrey, have responded, highlighting Surrey's many current failings. We have led the drive for Spelthorne to be proactive, regarding setting out its future in Local Government. This was highlighted and debated at an Extraordinary Council meeting of Spelthorne Borough Council on 24 September. Spelthorne Lib Dem's formulated the shape of all four motions discussed. Each debated in turn was supported not only by us but unanimously by all Councillors present in the chamber. This was an important marker in cross-party working on this crucial issue.

The first motion criticised Surrey County Council for its reckless, ill-thought-out plan which has been met with widespread opposition from across the political spectrum. Such was the opposition to the plan proposed by Surrey, that it has now been shelved at least for the time being, following a Government U-turn on the matter in the face of hostile opposition.

The second motion criticised the Government for its proposed agenda, emanating from the pending White Paper, which is perceived as an all-out attack on Local Government. Whilst the White Paper has been delayed and seemingly Surrey's plan rejected, sources are now reporting that it will be published around the Spring of 2021. Despite the hostility, it appears that Surrey regardless, are ploughing on promoting its vision of just one Authority for the Council. If successful it would become the biggest Unitary Authority in the country and administrate on behalf of 1.2 million people covered currently by eleven District Councils from Headquarters based in Reigate. Such a monolithic Authority would inevitably represent remoteness and have a clear lack of identity with the people it would represent were it to come to pass.

In the interests of being pro-active and positive, rather than negative, Liberal Democrat's also promoted two further motions on this subject which both gained unanimous approval. The first means that Spelthorne Council is now committed to engaging with neighbouring authorities, to better understand the opportunities and possibilities to establish partnerships for Spelthorne as a Local Government Unit. This report is intended to be radical, promoting active dialogue on any Surrey split Councils, new working relationships and the prospect of joining London as well as Spelthorne being a Unitary Authority in its own right.

Councillors Tom Fidler and Sandra Dunn also ensured the voice of residents will be at the heart of decision making where those decisions are made for Spelthorne and it's Local Government structure. Their motion, again with unanimous backing, sought to ensure that residents are both informed and engaged in the process and debate throughout the review. In the event of opportunities presenting themselves, residents for the first time will be able to vote on these and indicate their preferences. This is a first and a victory for democracy.

Commenting after this historic meeting Councillor Tom Fidler said "Spelthorne's unique situation as a Middlesaxon enclave, attached to Surrey purely for administrative purposes, has often meant we have ended up as the poor relation and a dumping ground for unpopular projects such as the Eco Park. Surrey having wasted so much taxpayers money on this and Spelthorne having to have sat by and watch it unfold, powerless to act, has been a totally unacceptable situation. We have worked to ensure that in future Spelthorne residents views will not be ignored but that they will feel empowered and kept fully informed about any future proposed changes.

With uncertainty surrounding the proposed timeline for change, we now at least have the time to adequately prepare for any Government proposed changes and that in this we are dealing with facts, not purely press speculation and conjecture. Spelthorne has to be prepared for the fact that both the Government and Surrey will come again to threaten the fabric of Local Government. But when they do, as has been shown previously, next time we can now be ready to counteract with our own thought out proposals, formulated after consultation with residents that will stand up to scrutiny when challenged."

We encourage you to visit letspelthornedecide.uk where you'll be able to read about the choices, find out what we and other parties (and councillors think) as well as opinion from local groups. You can also leave your own comment and vote on a vote!

Photo by Todd Trapani from Pexels


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The Motions:

SPELTHORNE BOROUGH COUNCIL - AMENDMENTS FOR 24TH SEPTEMBER ECM

On Thursday 24 September an Extraordinary Council Meeting was held to discuss proposals by Surrey County Council to form a single unitary authority.

Four motions in relation to the proposal by Surrey County Council to form a Unitary Authority were received for consideration at this meeting.

Motion 1

In response to SCCs recently publicised proposal, this Council strongly opposes a single Surrey-wide Unitary Authority and will inform Tim Oliver and SCC accordingly.

Proposed - Cllr Boughtflower

Seconded - Cllr Jim Mcllroy

Motion 2

This Council is concerned by the prospect of a Government White paper as an attack on Local Government and local democracy. While the Council is open to taking part in discussions about Unitary Authorities it does not support Centralisation by National Government and recognises the value and contribution made already by this authority. In doing so it will only endorse change that actively improves the quality and provision of services available to residents and that demonstrably increases local democracy and accountability.

The council will write to Mr Tim Oliver to this effect and express our concern over the manner the proposals were published in particular the lack of prior consultation of and dialogue with existing borough, town and parish councils in Surrey, specifically Spelthorne Borough Council.

Proposer Cllr John Boughtflower

Seconder Cllr Jim Mcllroy

Motion 3

This Council directs that all Local Government Structures be fully explored to influence the best options for Spelthorne and its residents. As part of this exploration, this Council expects to engage in active dialogue with neighbouring authorities about partnerships and opportunities. A report on this would then be considered by Full Council.

Proposer - Cllr John Boughtflower

Seconder - Cllr Tom Fidler

Motion 4

This Council recognises the importance of residents' interests in the future of its local government and will commit to informing residents about progress in relation to opportunities for the future structure of Local Government in Spelthorne. The Council should consider methods of measuring public opinion, along with the cost effectiveness of such options, including the use of a referendum as outlined in the Local Government Act 2000 (as amended by the Localism Act 2011).

Proposer - Cllr Tom Fidler

Seconder - Cllr Sandra Dunn

This Council voted unanimously to agree all motions. The meeting is still available to watch which you can do so here; https://www.spelthorne.gov.uk/yourfuture