Keith Witham: County Council Annual Report
Report for 2019/20 from County Councillor Keith Witham,
I have continued to communicate with residents regularly during the year, through
the Parish Council, the three local Residents Associations, issued regularly quarterly
email newsletters and posted on my Facebook page, via the Worplesdon Matters
website and its Facebook page.
Good News! In 2019 I was able to successfully sponsor Surrey Council grants
for more local groups and projects.
The amounts involved are usually a few hundred pounds, but they really help out our
local voluntary groups with their fantastic work. Below is the list for our local villages
for 2019. Do please get in touch with me if you are a member of a local group or
organisation to see of you can apply for 2020 - the guidelines are up to £250 for a
group that HAS been supported before and usually up to £500 for a group that has
NOT had an SCC grant before; one off projects or equipment only (not usually
routine running costs). Email me at email@example.com The new financial
year starts in April.
Local 2019 Grants:
River of Life Group - wireless microphone for sound system
Jacobs Well Village Hall - Digital keypad lock for Village Hall
Doctors Practice - Patient Participation Group - Diabetes type 2 awareness
raising event (held in Normandy)
Worplesdon Primary School - support for new planters, Envis Way, gardening
Fairlands Community Association - contribution to a Welcome sign at the
entrance to Fairlands
Planting of Rowan trees, Louis Fields, to help deter verge parking
WOOD STREET VILLAGE
Wood Street Village Association - summer event gazebos
WORPLESDON / PERRY HILL
1st Rydes Hill (St Mary's) Scouts - camping equipment for cubs & scouts
Worplesdon Cricket Club - mower
St Mary's Church - removal of old oil tank
Safety posts, Goose Rye Road
replacement of wooden rights of way posts at 16 locations
SCC FINANCIAL POSITION 2019-20
SCC has again balanced its income and expenditure during 2019 without having to
use any of its (still low level) of reserves. During the year savings of £85 million were
made, mainly in reducing the number of properties and "co-locating" services with
Borough Councils. It has been possible to AVOID any reductions to subsidies for
rural bus services; community recycling centres; and libraries.
OTHER LOCAL MATTERS
-Having had the major routes of Woking Road and Clay Lane resurfaced, more local
roads have been resurfaced - Salt Box Road and Stringers Avenue.
-The huge reduction in collisions in Clay Lane continued following the new anti-skid
surface that was installed along Clay Lane, Jacobs Well the previous year.
- Charges for Salt Box Road car parks. These were not implemented, and parking
remains free of charge. A voluntary contribution scheme is being considered for
those who wish to contribute to the maintenance of the commons.
- Aldershot Road, Fairlands. The proposed Pedestrian Island near Hunts Farm
proved not to be possible because of underground cables at the location. It is
intended to install surface rumble strips, with acknowledgement and thanks to WPC
for its continued support at this location.
- A stretch of approx. 30 yards of new footpath has been stalled on Aldershot Road
to link the existing footpath from Wood Street Village direction to Fairlands, so that
pedestrians don't have to step into the
road to get to the wide verge.
-The speed limit on Aldershot Road from just after the Holly Lane roundabout, to
Normandy, has been reduced from 50mph to 40mph.
-Improved signage before the Holly Lane roundabout (Wood Street direction) is due
to be installed to help reduce traffic speeds at the location.
-St Michaels Avenue has been resurfaced and I have asked for other local roads to
be assessed for resurfacing.
-A new Special Educational Needs Communication facility for SEND pupils at the
Worplesdon Primary School is being built, as a cost of over £1million, due to open in
-Planting of new Rowan Trees to deter verge parking
WOOD STREET VILLAGE
-New footpaths were installed in Broad Street
-The Keens Lane housing development received approval and is in progress. This
has involved considerable local traffic disruption and SCC has sought to minimise
the effect on nearby residents.
WINTER ACTION FOR SURREY'S ROADS
This year there has not been so much need for the County Council's fleet of gritting
lorries, but because of severe high winds and rain there have been extensive
operations by highways to keep roads in the county open and safe.
Potholes. Winter weather always brings more potholes, no surprise there! Last year
Surrey Highways fixed more than 40,000 potholes. So, my usual annual reminder
please, that SCC relies on public reporting and if you see a pothole - REPORT
IT! Please don't leave it to others, as they will have left it to you! The best way is via
the website www.surreycc.gov.uk where there is a "Report It" section. You can bring
up a map of the road and mark the potholes exact location on the road. How quickly
it will be repaired depends on the size of the pothole and location in the road, i.e.
how dangerous it is. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Telephone: 0300
ELECTRIC PARK AND RIDE BUSES
New electric buses for Guildford's Park and Ride - a first for Surrey - and it is
believed for the U.K. Nine new fully electric, zero emission buses introduced on the
Guildford park and ride service.
87% of parents had got their 1st choice of Primary school, up from 86% last year.
And 97% of parents got one of their choices for Secondary School. This doesn't
happen by chance - as SCC has created 19,000 new school places in 10 years to
ensure that there are enough school places available.
SURREY LEADING THE WAY IN RECYCLING
SCC has opened Reuse shops at some CRCs - nearest one to us is at Woking CRC
7 days a week. Called "revive" for furniture, bikes, crockery, tools, garden
furniture, CDs, DVDS, records. 10% of profits to charity, voted for by customers.
SCC are also encouraging residents to recycle clothes and textiles, either or be worn
again or turned into felt or insulation. For more info see www.recycleforsurrey.org.uk
SCC's commitment to recycling took another step forward with an innovative trial for
recycled plastic being used in pavements. Recycled waste plastic from bottles, bags
and packaging has been used in the reconstruction of pavements for the first time in
Surrey. The trial has seen materials used in asphalt to resurface pavements after
roadworks, cutting carbon emissions and potentially costs. The bitumen is replaced
by plastic collected from household waste such as bottles, bags and packaging, to
make asphalt. It's creators say it can cope better with contraction and expansion
caused by changes in the weather, reducing cracks and potholes, while benefiting
the environment. The trial was carried out with U.K. Power Networks and if prove
successful, this could pave the way for wider use by other utilities.
PLANTING OF 1.2 MILLION NEW TREES
SCC has put in place plans to plant 1.2 million new trees over the next ten years -
equivalent to one per resident of Surrey. The programme started in October and will
involve Highways for verges and the Borough Council
DOORSTEP TRADERS AND FLYTIPPING
SCC Trading standards are asking residents to say "No" to doorstep traders offering
gardening, rubbish cleared, roofing, driveways etc for cash. This is very pertinent re
fly tipping. Legitimate companies are registered as waste carriers (registered with
GBC) and it's mainly rogue traders responsible for commercial fly tipping. But any
resulting fly tipping is still the responsibility of the originating residents and two have
recently been fined £300 and £800 respectively.
SURREY FIRE AND RESCUE UPDATE
The background is that over 10 years, the number of fires in Surrey are down 50%
but Road Traffic Accidents are up 50%, and that more people die by drowning in
Surrey rivers than in fires. So Surrey Fire and Rescue are reconfiguring their
services and staffing to respond to those demands, with proposals for much more
emphasis on daytime preventative visits to residents and businesses (aim is to
increase those from 2,500 a year to 10,000 a year initially, and then to 20,000 pa.
But that will need changes to crew rotas. The plans have been examined, and are
supported, by HM Inspector of Fire services, the National Fire Chiefs Council and
staff seconded from the London Fire Brigade. This is not about money (Fire and
Rescue were exempted from any financial savings in 2019) but how money and
resources are deployed most effectively?
CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS AND DISABILITIES (SEND)
As also mentioned in the Fairlands section, SCC agreed to invest over £1million for
a new "SEND" unit at Worplesdon Primary School, Fairlands through the creation of
a new Special Educational Needs & Disabilities specialist centre. The centre, within
Worplesdon Primary School, will provide places for 21 pupils with high
communication and interaction needs. This will help children in need of SEND
Communication services throughout Worplesdon.
Regarding any effect on local traffic as regarding transport the school will have
staggered start and finish times, thus reducing traffic at peak times, and
allocating space on the school site for the vehicles attached to the centre (i.e. taxis
and staff cars) It is currently being built and is due to open in September 2020.
REDUCTION IN THE NUMBER OF DEATHS IN SURREY IN ROAD
2018 figures showed a welcome reduction in the number of fatalities on Surreys
Roads. While its positive that the number of people killed on Surrey's roads dropped
from 36 in 2017 to 27 in 2018 there is always more to do. I know from the regular
feedback I get from residents that local Road safety, speeding, and anti-social
driving remain prime concerns of residents. SCC follows a road safety policy
referring to the "three E's" - Engineering, Education and Enforcement.
- Surrey County Council invests money at collision hotspots and addresses safety
issues in road traffic safety schemes
- Road safety education services are offered to all Surrey's Schools. For example,
the "Bikeability" cycle training to nearly 19,000 young people across Surrey in the
last school year; (and are looking to do the same for pedestrian training). And the
Surrey Fire and Rescue Service provide the "Safe Drive Stay Alive" performance to
12,000 young college and sixth form students - as new young drivers are a high-risk
group. See: https://safedrivesurrey.org/
- SCC has developed a speed management plan for each borough in conjunction
with Surrey Police. These identify the worst locations for speeding and casualties, so
the police can target enforcement. The Council has also invested in average speed
cameras at major locations.
I am regularly asked about roadworks by residents, and will point out that only a
minority of Highways works are run by Surrey County Council Highways; most are
carried out by the utilities, Gas, Electricity, Water, Telecommunications, who have
the legal right to access their facilities.
Some years ago SCC adopted a permit system where access is needed for routine
maintenance, the utility will apply in advance to SCC for a time limited permit for
work on a specific stretch of road. But if it's an emergency situation the utility has the
right to just get on with what they need to do. A very useful reference for all such
works is: www.roadworks.org
PARKING FOR DISABLED RESIDENTS
A new Blue Badge legislation came into force in August 2019. This extended the
eligibility criteria for the scheme to include 'non-visible' (hidden) disabilities, before it
was only physical disabilities.
POLICING IN SURREY
A small part of this year's Council Tax increase was to fund 100 extra police officers
and police operational staff. That comprised reversing the cut of 25 police officers,
planned by the Police and Crime Commissioner, and then recruiting to an increased
establishment of 75. In fact, 4 more than that could be afforded with the extra funds,
bringing the number up to 79 - plus the 25 saved - means that we now have 104
more police than if no action had been taken - recruited, trained and deployed by
the end of March 2020.
And that was BEFORE the Government plan to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers
nationally. So, it's good to report what that means for Surrey will be an extra 78
Police Officers - new and in addition to those currently in post and the 104 extra.
Surrey County Council welcomed extra Government funding for schools in Surrey which
will rise by 4.62% per pupil from April 2020 (new financial year) ensuring that perpupil funding for all schools can rise at least in line with inflation. every secondary
school will receive a minimum of £5,000 per pupil next year while every primary
school will get a minimum of £4,000 per pupil from 2021-22
NEW OLDER PEOPLE CARE UNITS
Over 700 new care units for older people have been agreed by Surrey County
Council to provide independent living with care support. The 1st phase will include
65 at Ponds Meadow, Guildford in the next two years.
Surrey County Council has agreed £270 million of funding for long term flood risk
schemes across Surrey towards a total of £640 million, the largest investment in
flood risk in the UK to date.
This is mainly for the River Thames Scheme, to protect the15,000 properties and tens
of thousands of people living and working near the Thames (following the floods of
2014) but the funding also includes £33 million to spend over 10 years on other local
flood alleviation projects across Surrey.
COUNTY HALL - SCC HQ - TO MOVE FROM KINGSTON
Surrey County Council announced in November that it will be moving its
headquarters from Kingston back into the heart of the county to offices in Woking
during 2020. Historical background... Why is Surrey County Council (SCC) not in
Surrey? SCC is currently based in the magnificent County Hall built between 1891
and 1893 in Kingston-upon-Thames, which isn't within Surrey at all. The borders of
Surrey were altered in 1965 creating Greater London but SCC remained at County
Hall. It's a historic building, but not suited to modern offices.
This will be a momentous move, which will accelerate changes in the way SCC
works. Aside from the fact that the new Civic Heart will now actually be inside the
county of Surrey, which has been a long-held ambition, the real driver has been the
desire to place services right at the heart of the population the Council is here to
What happens to County Hall? Preparations to sell County Hall are under way, which
will go towards funding the new building in Woking for 1500 staff. Maintenance costs
for the Victorian building are very high and moving to the new HQ represents a
fraction of the cost of bringing County Hall up to modern standards.
This is all part of a big transformation process. There are also plans to look at how
staff can be better equipped to work from home, in non-office locations and other
council offices across the county.
County Councillor, Worplesdon