Lessons Must Be Learned from Parsons Green Bombing

The Home Office has issued a letter (18 June 2018) to the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee regarding Ahmed Hassan’s interaction with the police and Home Office prior to the Parsons Green bombing incident in September 2017.

Surrey Liberal Democrats, for a number of months, have been pressing for a report on the lessons to be learnt from the review of this incident to be put in the public domain and we are pleased that this letter has been published and that the lessons that need to be learned are now available for all to see and to be acted upon.

The fact that there was no formal documented plan to manage Ahmed Hassan’s risks and vulnerabilities was a fundamental gap in his care and the lack of such a plan meant that he did not get the support that he needed and appropriate action was not taken.

It is clear that various warning signs were not acted upon in terms of his demeanour, behaviour and his periods missing from home, with the delay in processing his asylum application clearly causing him concern. It is also clear that sharing of information, training and processes between those involved in the care of asylum seekers need to be improved for the future.

We fully support the County Council’s commitment to carry out training for social workers to identify signs of radicalisation, which is a necessary step forward, and believe that everything possible must be done to ensure that a similar incident does not happen in the future.

£196 Million Spending Cuts Plan at County Hall

Liberal Democrat County Councillors have expressed their concern after it was revealed that Surrey County Council is planning to reduce spending on services by nearly £200 million by the end of March 2020.

The figures were released in a report to the County Council’s Cabinet alongside the Conservative-administration’s decision to hire consultants, at an undisclosed sum, to assist with the County Council’s “programme management and change capacity” project.

Liberal Democrat County Councillors have highlighted the adverse impact on vital council services that would result from a spending reduction of almost £200m over the next two years, noting that Surrey residents rely on the County Council for well-maintained roads, recycling centres, libraries, children’s centres and youth services.

The County Council’s financial problems have been compounded as the Conservative-administration failed to act upon the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA) report “Financial Resilience Review – Surrey County Council” which was published in December 2016 and which stated that the County Council lacked a “credible cost reduction plan” and highlighted the County Council’s “rapidly declining reserves”.

The County Council’s belated realisation that it is facing a financial crisis means that even more drastic cuts are being proposed than would have otherwise been necessary. And as these cuts bite, the Leader of the Council places the blame at the poor financial settlements from the government despite every one of his colleagues at Westminster who represents a Surrey constituency voting for the most recent settlement rather than his own handling of the County Council’s finances.

The spending cuts will undoubtedly mean that services currently provided to Surrey residents will be withdrawn. Quite frankly, Surrey residents deserve better.

REVEALED: Surrey’s £298 MILLION Commercial Property Portfolio Delivers Zero Income for County Council Services

Liberal Democrat County Councillors have expressed significant concerns after it was revealed that Surrey County Council has not spent any of the income derived from its £298 million commercial property portfolio on council services.

Surrey County Council, either itself or through its wholly owned subsidiary company Halsey Garton, has purchased 23 commercial properties, 65% of which are situated outside of the county across England. The total amount invested is £298,073,000.

And the County Council has been transferring the rental income from these commercial properties (£3.8m) into its Revolving Infrastructure & Investment Fund, which is used to support the purchasing of commercial property, despite one of the central tenets of the County Council’s original Investment Strategy being to “generate additional income for the council that can be used to provide additional financial support for the delivery of functions and services”.

​These transfers have taken place despite the Conservative Cabinet Member for Property & Business Services stating: “We also have an additional need to generate an income from our strategy if we are to have any hope of raising enough money to fund the services our residents need.”

Liberal Democrat County Councillors are deeply concerned that none of the income derived from this extensive property investment portfolio has so far been used to support council services when the County Council is proposing millions of pounds of cuts to services in this financial year and have called for this income to be used to support the County Council’s services.

Lib Dems Call for Inquiry after Surrey County Council Apologises for Failings in Parsons Green Bomb Case

Liberal Democrat County Councillors have called for a review of the County Council’s admitted failings in the Parsons Green bomb incident following Ahmed Hassan, 18, being convicted of attempted murder on 16 March 2018. He had been placed in foster care in Sunbury by Surrey County Council since the summer of 2016.

We want the Council to conduct a review into the County Council’s role in this case, and for the findings to be published alongside any recommendations following an inquiry along the lines of a serious case review.

This was an incredibly serious incident that deserves a high level of scrutiny as hundreds of people could have been killed and injured if this attack had been successful. The County Council should be totally transparent about learning the lessons from it and trying to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

We would have expected a statement to have been made by the Leader of the Council at the Council meeting last week, to update members and the public as to how the County Council would be addressing the concerns raised by this case. Unfortunately this did not happen.

We now hope that the Leader of the Council will agree to set up a review as a matter of urgency so that the County Council can learn the lessons of this serious incident and implement any necessary changes as quickly as possible.

£0.75 Billion Bill to Fix Surrey’s Roads and Footways

Liberal Democrat County Councillors have revealed that it would take over three quarters of a billion pounds to repair the county’s roads and footways to an “as new” standard and that at the current rate of spending, it would take the Conservative-run County Council almost 50 years to complete this work.

The fact that Surrey’s roads and footways are in such a dreadful condition is not news to residents who have to drive over many potholes every day.

That £754 million of spending is needed to bring them up to a decent standard is quite shocking, and only highlights the inadequacy of the County Council’s recently announced £5million of additional funding for road repairs.

We believe that the County Council needs to set out a far more ambitious plan to improve our roads and footways after decades of neglect and underfunding and we have called on the County Council to adopt a more proactive approach to repairing the roads and to invest now so as to save money on costly repairs and compensation later, and in doing so ensuring that we have a road network in Surrey of which our residents can be proud.

Listen to the Government and Drop DIY Waste Charges

Liberal Democrat County Councillors have called on Surrey County Council to accept the Conservative Government’s view that charges for residents disposing of DIY waste should be dropped.

The unpopular charges were introduced at Community Recycling Centres across the county by the Conservative Cabinet in September 2016, and included charges for the disposal of tyres, as well as home and garden waste.

The Conservative government has quite rightly signaled their opposition to these unfair charges and have announced that they will legislate if councils like Surrey continue to impose them.

Conservative councillors were given the chance to back their own Government’s policy and end these charges immediately at this week’s Council Meeting. However, by 60 votes to 9, they decided to keep the charges.

Lib Dems say “Take Young Care Leavers Out of Council Tax in Surrey”

Liberal Democrat County Councillors have called for care leavers in Surrey to be exempted from paying council tax until they are 25 following a campaign which was initiated by the highly respected charity, The Children’s Society.

The reasoning behind this is simple – care leavers have some of the worst life chances in the country. 20% of young homeless people have previously been in care, 24% of the adult prison population have been in care, 70% of sex workers have been in care and only 6% of care leavers are in higher education at 19.

Without the family support most young people get as they become adults, care leavers often struggle to juggle their household bills and make ends meet. Many find themselves in debt, or having to go without food or other basic necessities. To expect some of the country’s most vulnerable young people to start paying Council Tax just days after leaving care is setting them up to fail.

Care leavers have also had their childhoods punctuated by instability and trauma, they leave home earlier and have less support than other young people. We recognise that taking care leavers out of the Council Tax system is not a silver bullet to the challenges they face but it will be a step in the right direction and will help these young people make a successful transition out of care. By investing in young people at this stage, the County Council can help prevent more costly interventions in the future.

Lib Dems Raise Concerns Over Future of Children’s Centres in Surrey

Liberal Democrat County Councillors have raised concerns over the future of Children’s Centres in Surrey.

Currently there are 58 centres across the county, providing services such as childcare, play and learning sessions, parenting courses, employment support and information and guidance for low-income families and Surrey County Council is currently consulting on a new model for delivering its “Early Help” services, with the aim of saving at least £9.7m.

We believe that our Children’s Centres do so much for families and children which is not well publicised and Surrey should be proud of them. They provide essential guidance and support for families with challenges and make a real difference to their lives.

We are doing all we can to ensure that we can save as much of the skill and commitment of the staff that work in the Children’s Centres and to ensure that they continue to make a positive difference in the future.

Children’s Mental Health Services Must Improve

Liberal Democrat County Councillors in Surrey have expressed their concerns over the long waiting times faced by children and young people with mental health problems in the County.

We are disappointed that, for many children with mental health problems, waiting times for assessment can be over 160 working days (this includes children in care) and that for treatment, assuming some is deemed necessary, the wait can be between 10 and 75 working days.

This is an unacceptable state of affairs which is not going to be resolved by contract managers shouting at the providers – the fact is demand for these services is going through the roof and the services are underfunded.

We believe that children’s mental health is the greatest public health crisis nationally. A child who is self-harming or suicidal will be marked by such trauma for life unless they get urgent support. Yet in Surrey they can’t always get the support they need in a timely manner and that is simply not good enough for our children.

Lib Dems Call on Surrey’s 11 MPs to Vote Against “Inadequate” Government Funding

Liberal Democrat County Councillors in Surrey have written to the county’s 11 MPs asking them to vote against the Local Government Finance Settlement in Parliament on Wednesday 7 February.

The Settlement sets out the level of funding from central government to local councils for the next financial year and has been widely criticised for failing to address the financial problems that many councils face.

The financial position of Surrey County Council is extremely poor, caused by a number of factors including local decisions taken by the Conservative administration at County Hall and reductions in funding from central government.

Furthermore, the government has failed to address the crisis in adult social care, phased out transitional funding which was worth £12m to the County Council last year, and has not provided adequate funding for the extremely high number of adults with learning disabilities who live in Surrey.

And the proposed Local Government Finance Settlement does not provide the resources that Surrey County Council needs – it just increases the pressure on already over stretched public services.

In the light of this poor outcome for Surrey residents, we have written to all of Surrey’s MPs asking them vote against the settlement on Wednesday 7 February. If they do support it, despite the clear damage it will cause to public services, Surrey residents will ask the question: “Why are they putting party loyalty ahead of their duty to protect local services?”