Cllr Andrew Povey, the new Conservative leader of Surrey County Council, has been outlining his priorities. Among his proposals is to give £1 million to Surrey Police specifically to tackle speeding. "Surrey Police has noted that it comes top of the concerns expressed to them by the public," says Cllr Povey. This is surprising. In my experience people want police to get out of their patrol cars and back on the beat. They want a lower priority given to chasing after motorists and a higher priority tackling muggers and burglars. Perhaps the view in Surrey is different to elsewhere.
Recruitment of social workers is another area being flagged up with bursaries of £1,500 a year for 50 students whose family home is in Surrey who are studying social work. Also sponsorship for ten existing members of Council staff to train to become social workers. It will be interesting to see how this works. I can see the benefit of social workers having local knowledge of where they are working. But what would there be to stop them taking the bursaries and sponsorship and then working for another council?
Cllr Povey says: "Council tax is percieved as high in Surrey." That perception probably comes about because the Council Tax in Surrey is high. It is up 2.9% this year to £1,089.18 for Band D. That is only Surrey's share of the Council Tax – the bill from district councils goes on top of that. Cllr Povey's "aspiration is to constrain future rises in Council Tax to a maximum of 2.5% per annum."
Of course his aspiration should be to reduce the Council Tax. One discouraging sign is that he has abandoned his veto on recruitment of new staff (except for those on over £100,000 a year.) He has delegated this power for lower paid posts to his Cabinet Members to recruit at will. In Hammersmith and Fulham the leader has to agree before any vacancy is filled or new post created. He is very good at saying: "No."
Also discouraging is the amount of socialist content in Cllr Povey's Leader's Report. ("This administration attaches considerable importance to modernising our thinking around the issues of equality and diversity. In order to indicate a strong lead to all members and officers of the County Council, I have indicated to members of my Cabinet that they must complete the SCC Grass Roots Diversity Workbooks course that is available to all members…")