Guildford Dragon NEWS | The Guildford Dragon
By Martin Giles
Opposition parties fear that a new “County Deal”, as proposed in a confidential document leaked to the Guildford Dragon NEWS, is another attempt to centralize power within the county council leadership after their failed attempt to form a single unitary authority for the whole country. Surrey in 2020.
Surrey County Council has expressed an interest in Surrey being considered by the government as a County Deal pilot area.
The proposed new structure, led by a ‘strong leader’ model, is outlined in the document with a multi-agency Surrey forum, meeting quarterly and chaired by currently Conservative County Council Head Tim Oliver.
All representatives would be empowered to make recommendations to County Council on strategic priorities, resource allocation and the content and delivery of the County Deal.
A Lib Dem county councilor said: “It is the county council that will decide what happens, as the forum is only allowed to recommend strategic priorities.” And a county councilor, from the independent group at CSC, said: “This is the unitary authority’s proposal through the back door.
The draft proposal provides for obtaining authorization to increase five new taxes:
- A new additional county-wide infrastructure tax
- A new tenet of two percent business rates on local businesses
- An additional precept of housing tax
- A tourist or tourist tax
- The possibility of creating “community improvement districts” where households in existing business improvement districts (BIDs) would pay a new levy.
General powers would also be sought to raise more money and take control of infrastructure funds and replace local business partnerships (LEP).
In an email containing the draft document, sent to all departmental advisers, the head of the CSC wrote:
“I am writing to keep you posted on the work Surrey County Council has undertaken on a possible County Agreement.
“This process is still in its early stages and, as such, the details of any potential deal are still being worked out. We also don’t know if Surrey will be approached to be a pilot area or what the upgrade whitepaper will include in its details.
“However, we have worked hard with districts and boroughs and other partners to produce a draft proposal document to form the basis for any discussion with government (attached with our proposed strategic governance structure). Please note that this document is still in the draft stage and that it is subject to change as we continue our collaboration with partners and the government. “
In the introduction, the document states: “At the heart of county agreements will be additional powers and resources, as well as additional freedoms and flexibilities, vested in counties to facilitate accelerated economic growth, health and well-being. of individuals and communities and the protection and improvement of our towns, villages and countryside as well as the environment at large.
“To achieve this ambition to the best of our ability, we need new freedoms, flexibilities and powers. “
The “Surrey Forum”
The new forum will include the following offices which are directly appointed or would be chosen by the county council:
- Head of departmental council
- CEO of the departmental council
- Fire chief
- Company representatives
- Community, volunteer and faith representatives
And it will also include the representation of the following:
- Boroughs and neighborhoods
- Municipal and parish councils
- Surrey MPs
- Surrey CCP
- Surrey Police Chief
- Chairman and CEO of the NHS Integrated Care Board
- Universities in Surrey
- Colleges of Higher Education in Surrey
- Probation service
Economic growth is at the top of a list of strategic goals. By 2030, according to the proposal, the goal would be to “develop a sustainable economy from which everyone can benefit”. The council, with the new forum, “would create high-quality jobs and continue to stimulate the economy through sustainable growth.” Our reinvented cities will be places of high quality and vision and our approach will ensure that the benefits of growth are accessible to all. “
According to the draft document: “Surrey’s economy is, apart from London, the only one in the UK to make a net contribution (around £ 7.5 billion a year) to the treasury. Surrey’s continued economic success is therefore of national significance, particularly in the context of providing funds to support a nationwide upgrading program. “
Nothing is mentioned in the document about the public consultation or the costs associated with the proposal and the subject of the reorganization of the council was not raised during the electoral campaign of the departmental council in the spring.
In August, Cllr Eber Kington (RA, Ewell Court, Auriol & Cuddington) said he believed Cllr Oliver should have made the leadership of local government an electoral issue, adding: “This way the voters could decide but he chose not to. “
Former Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick, in a letter to local council leaders, said candidates for the County Deals pilot program with the clearest proposals, most innovative and easily achievable that support leveling to be a priority. Proposals will need to provide strong local leadership as well as effective local control to help residents know who to hold responsible for local delivery.