Surrey County Council sets 23/24 budget
A councillor who visited rural India paused his tour to take photos of the roads because they were “in better condition than Surrey’s”. The Labour group leader on Surrey County Council said he visited the state of Karnataka last month and on a visit to a village school, stopped to take a photo of the road.
Councillor Robert Evans (Labour, Stanwell and Stanwell Moor) told a meeting of the council on Tuesday (February 7) that his host had asked him what was wrong with the roads there. He told the meeting he had replied: “Nothing, to the contrary. I just wanted photographic evidence that the road surfaces here in rural India are better than in many parts of Surrey.”
Cllr Evans also said his Stanwell residents asked him why roads in what he called the “forgotten part of Surrey” were worse than in other parts of the county. He told the meeting: “I actually tell them they’re not, they are pretty bad everywhere.”
In the meeting, councillors voted through the authority’s budget for 2023/24, though without the support of the opposition. The county council’s share of council tax will increase by 2.99 per cent from April, which means an increase of 94p per week, or £48.69 per year on the average band D property.
This is less than the 4.99 per cent which the government says councils can increase council tax by without a referendum, though Slough, Thurrock and Croydon councils were this week given permission to raise council tax by 10 and 15 per cent to help pay off huge borrowing costs.
The district and borough councils in Surrey, as well as the Police and Crime Commissioner, will also add their shares to the bills that will be paid by residents. Surrey’s £1.1billion budget, which includes spending of more than £400m on adult social care and £249m on children, families and lifelong learning was described as a “good and fair” budget by the council’s leader.
Cllr Oliver (Conservative, Weybridge) pointed to the council’s “ambitious” capital programme which included highways maintenance as well as low emission buses, flood alleviation measures, independent living facilities for the elderly and more accommodation in the county for looked after children.
A cabinet meeting last week heard that more government funding was needed in Surrey for repairs on the county’s 3,000 miles of roads. The Liberal Democrat group leader called on the council to spend money the council had in reserves rather than “cutting spending on roads and services for vulnerable people”. Cllr Will Forster (Woking South) said Surrey’s roads were “completely falling apart”. He pointed to a highways budget that he claimed would be less than £30m by 2024/25, compared to nearly £70m in the 2023/24 budget. He said: “That is not acceptable. Our residents would find that appalling.”
But another councillor said it would be “bonkers” to spend the council’s savings on road repairs or other projects.
Cllr Edward Hawkins (Conservative, Heatherside and Parkside) said he supported the budget and looking to the situation in the Ukraine, Turkey and Syria, that it was important not to spend money that had been put aside.
He told the meeting: “It’s bonkers to spend the money that you put aside for a rainy day, when we really don’t know what’s coming around the corner.”
The meeting opened with a minute’s silence for the dog walker who was killed in Caterham in January, the Epsom College head and her family who were found dead on Sunday (February 5) as well as those affected by earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.
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Surrey County Council proposes 2023/24 budget