PRESS RELEASE: Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson Zoe Franklin Surrey County Council calls news of change to unitary authorities in Surrey poorly timed and undemocratic

July 8, 2020 3:20 PM
Zöe Franklin, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for Guildford, Cranleigh & our Villages

Parlimentary Spokesperson Zöe Franklin

Responding to news from Surrey County Council Leader Tim Oliver's speech to Surrey's County Councillors yesterday, Parliamentary Spokesperson for Guildford, Cranleigh and our Villages, Zöe Franklin said:

"I am deeply concerned by news that Surrey County Council's Conservative leadership intend to pursue a unitary authority to replace Surrey's County and Borough/District councils in advance of the Government White Paper expected in the Autumn. Having spoken to Lib Dem County Councillors the first they knew of this was late Monday afternoon, and Guildford Borough Council leader Cllr Caroline Reeves has advised that she had no prior notice either.

It is unacceptable that such a significant change to the way that Surrey is governed and how local people's voices are represented and listened to should simply be announced without any consultation with County Councillors or Borough Council leaders and colleagues. More than that, what about the views and needs of local people?

Local government has the most direct impact on people's daily lives - it deals with education, social care, refuse, housing and so much more. It is therefore crucial that Councils are connected to local people through the councillors who serve on them as community representatives. If the idea of unitary authorities is to be explored for Surrey, then the needs of people and communities must come first in the decision making.

The decision must also be made in an open and transparent manner, with cross-party involvement. Residents made clear in last year's local elections that they no longer supported the Conservative vision for our county. Out of the 11 local Borough/District Councils across Surrey, only two are now controlled outright by the Conservatives. Massive majorities were slashed to nothing. The Conservatives here are losing control and this is nothing more than a desperate effort to redraw boundaries for personal gain."