Lynn Owens Surrey’s new Chief Constable will speak to Labour Party representatives from all over Surrey about important changes about to take place in the policing of Surrey.
“One issue I would like to explore with her is the comment by The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester that the issue of mental health threatens to overwhelm the police in his area,” County Councillor Victor Agarwal (Stanwell) states; “Labour feels that under the NHS Bill too little recognition is given to the strain on both the police and community services to the growing problem of mental illness in Surrey.”
Victor is a member of Surrey’s Adult Social Care Committee.
As well as this issue Labour will raise questions of changes in accountability that will follow the appointment of Police Commissioners later this year. Other issues such as flexible employment, value for money and job cuts within the force here will also be raised. How will the move towards results rather than officer numbers actually work?
What exactly is Mrs Owen’s reform agenda?
The Meeting will be at Owen House, Heathside Road, Woking, starting at 3pm.
In an embarrassing climb-down, the Conservative Executive at Surrey Heath BC has been forced to rethink community charges following a successful campaign by the cross-party Opposition Group.
On the 4th January, the Executive decided to freeze charges on 15 out of the 19 community charges affecting elderly and disabled residents at the Windle Valley Day Centre. This was despite their own report recommending drastic increases in food of up to 50%. As a result, all refreshment charges and meal charges will now remain at the same level apart from a two course meal going up by 20p.
Labour Councillor Rodney Bates, Leader of the Opposition Group said; “I am very pleased that the Conservatives eventually decided to listen to our concerns and those of older and disabled people. These outrageous proposals were way above the level of inflation and in the end, we proved they were completely unjustified.”
Independent Councillor for Chobham, Judi Trow said; “There remains a worry about the increases for people needing assisted baths and the daily attendance rates. I will be monitoring these areas very closely to make sure that our residents are not unfairly penalised in future.”
Pressure growing on Surrey Schools to become Academies from Education Secretary Michael Gove, the Surrey Heath MP.
On Thursday, David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, will initiate a debate in The House of Commons about pressure being put on schools in Haringey London to become Academies. This is against the wishes of parents, teachers and governors of schools in the Borough.
“I am seriously concerned the Michael Gove the Education Secretary is about to place similar pressure on schools here,” says County Councillor Victor Agarwal.
“This is likely to be precipitated by a squeeze on Surrey’s Education Budget caused by schools that have become academies siphoning off funds. Michael Gove has called anyone expressing genuine doubts about academies as ideological,” the Stanwell Councillor continues, “but clearly he is the ideological one.”
He is going to ask a question at next full council “what plans Surrey have to ensure that full consultation takes place before any more of the County’s schools move to academies?”
“I believe that there is an absence of evidence that moving to academy status will inevitably result in improvement in children’s attainment. Changing the structure of a school is likely to distract from relentless efforts to improve teaching and learning,” Councillor, Victor Agarwal states.
Cuts so far announced to Surrey’s Health Services undermine Cameron’s promise to protect Health Services.
Any expectation that health care in Surrey will remain untouched by the coalition’s misguided austerity drive is now being revealed as being untrue. Both in Government and Opposition Cameron and his Health Secretary have made repeated promises the NHS Budget would be ring fenced, most noticeably with election posters claiming “We’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS”.
Among the examples coming from all over the country, two from Surrey stand out. At Frimley Park Hospital dozens of children with ME or chronic fatigue syndrome are about to lose the support of their consultant and nurse specialising in the condition. In the search for savings in a tightening budgetary situation both professionals are not now being replaced.
At Ashford a monthly surgery bulletin from Dr Peter Kandela, a local GP, advises his patients of three money saving measures his surgery is about to undertake. Some of his patients are being switched from their usual medication to other branded drugs on the basis that they are cheaper and will save the NHS money. GPs have been told by the local Primary Care Trust to stop issuing long term repeat prescriptions and to place a two month limit on the prescriptions they write. Ashford and St Peters Hospitals have stated that they will no longer accept reference for non-malignant moles, cysts, skin tags and other non-cancerous conditions. Although these are not life-saving activities they do relate to patient’s quality of life.
Research by the Surrey Welfare Rights Unit presents a grim prospect for the New Year for thousands of people here who depend on them for a civilised life.
Married couples without children who are in receipt of housing benefit and are between the age of 25 and 35 are to have their housing benefit reduced to the single room rate.
Checks are to be made on anyone on jobseekers allowance to ascertain that they are spending at least several hours each day looking for work. Further the radius within which they will be expected to look for work is to be extended to a 90 minute radius from where they live. Failure to comply with these conditions and other conditions could incur up to three years removal of the allowance.
The time limit for returning a form to claim Employment Support Allowance has been reduced from 6 to 4 weeks.
In April for families claiming Child Tax Credit with one child and their income is more than £26,000 loose this benefit. For families with 2 children the maximum income allowed is £32,000 to continue to receive the benefit. Some exception may be made for claimants above these amounts if they pay for registered child care or approved child care.
In April a couple working with children will need to work 24 hours per week to get Working Tax Credit as opposed to 16 hours at present. With so many families here dependent on part time work this poses a real threat to family income.
Conservative Surrey Heath has chosen Christmas and the season of goodwill to target savage increases in services for the elderly.
Commenting Rodney Bates, Leader of The Opposition on Surrey Heath Borough Council, said; “This is meant to be the season of goodwill, when we think of others less fortunate then ourselves. However Surrey Heath Council clearly do not take the same view as these proposals would mean the most vulnerable people in our community would suffer by having to pay much more than at present.”
As well as the elderly and disabled, cuts by Surrey Conservatives in education will affect children and young people. County Councillor Victor Agarwal (Stanwell) highlights how cuts in spending on schools and colleges in 2012 are about to hit Surrey;
“The dramatic increase in young people here not in education or training highlights the need good careers advice. But following the disbanding of Connexions and schools with tightening budgets are now being expected to provide this service. As a result many young people will not be adequately advised prior to their move to the world of work,” Councillor Agarwal states.
“The abolition of the Educational Maintenance allowance is already bringing hardship to young people from poorer families studying in Further Education. Cuts imposed on Surrey’s Youth Service will result that much of the informal support they give our young people will disappear,” he continues.
Murray Rowlands, Surrey Heath’s delegate to The Labour Party Conference, spoke to leading figures in The Royal British Legion at a reception during the Conference.
“I had the opportunity at the reception sponsored by The Royal British Legion and attended by The Labour Leader Ed Miliband to raise the question of the closure and sale of our Legion here,” Murray Rowlands says. “There is now a request that officers from Surrey Heath Legion write to their National Headquarters with proposals for a new legion centre here in Camberley,” he reports. “I have informed the legion here and hope they will be able to act on the offer now available from their head office.”
This progress came as part of a considerable focus on our armed forces highlighted by the military covenant announced by Shadow Defence Minister Jim Murphy at the Conference. Jim Murphy outlined how he and his team of four former serving military officers had played an important part in achieving a whole range of commitments from the British community towards the care of any one serving in the armed services or had previous served with them.
Speaking on the day that 10,000 jobs were lost in The Armed Services, Jim Murphy MP contrasted this with the support Labour had given to our defence forces: “We raised the budget 10% in real terms, made genuine improvements in health and housing for serving officers and doubled compensating payments,” he told the Conference.
Surrey Labour believes that Dr Povey’s resignation is directly linked to his business interests in the care industry which is increasingly creeping into the public sector. Although he says he is covered by Section 151 regulation regarding conflicts of interest of this kind, that he is now going to promote his business in the adult care sector highlights an important issue.
If the Leader of the Council is not involved in vital discussions about our ageing population (Surrey has the fastest growing numbers of 80 and 90 plus people in the country), he has been hardly fit to lead the Council.
If on the other hand he has been present when adult care is being discussed and decided on, a very serious issue of conflict of interest appears to be involved.
The second issue raised by Dr Povey’s interviews is about his style of leadership. He apparently simply sacked Councillor David Hodge his deputy. There is no indication of a consultation with his executive or with the caucus of his own Party. The people of Surrey should be seriously concerned that a clash of personality has been allowed to disrupt and distort the work of the County Council.
Now there will be no effective political leadership of Surrey till the 11th October.
Murray Rowlands, Surrey Heath’s delegate to the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool commencing on 25th of this month, will be taking a special resolution about the care of the elderly in Surrey.
“Our resolution highlights the way that Surrey County Council is presently squandering £2.5m on unoccupied beds while at the same time offering care services only to those considered to be in urgent need,” says Murray Rowlands, a former Surrey and Surrey Heath Councillor.
“Surrey is allowing 10 beds to remain empty out of 281 reserved for people suffering from dementia, at a cost of £444,000, when the level of need is severe. In November last year a third of the beds that should have been available for the physically frail elderly remained empty,” Mr Rowlands reports.
“Presently Surrey County Council operates on contracts with private firms such as Care UK and Anchor that are 10 years old. Is it surprising then that there is a mismatch between real need and the obsolete booking system presently operating in Surrey?
Transport Minister Philip Hammond, Runnymede and Weybridge MP, is facing questions about his indifference to the crisis now facing many people in Surrey due to above inflation costs in public transport. As well as this is his silence on the cut of more than £1.7m in Surrey County Council’s subsidy for its bus service.
Commenting, Labour Surrey County Councillor Victor Agarwal said: “The only statement I have seen from Mr Hammond is an indication that he would like to see the speed limit rise from 70MPH to 80MPH. With a large percentage of Surrey’s population, including many of its most vulnerable residents, dependent on public transport this is a clear indication of how out of touch with the lives of ordinary people the current Conservative-led cabinet is.
“Many people in Surrey are dependent on rail travel to get to work. On some routes the cost of travelling to London will rise as much as 13%. As Mervyn King, the Governor of The Bank of England, points out wage and salary levels for most people have not risen for the last 3 years. Faced with extra travel costs of over £30 a month, this development represent a real drop in people’s living standards. They now could represent up to 15% of someone’s salary. Mr Hammond needs to explain the decision to change the calculation of rail fares from inflation plus 1% to inflation plus 3%. Students travelling to study already hit by fees increases and the loss of educational maintenance allowance will also suffer.
“Surrey has a higher percentage of older residents then the national average and they will also be severely impacted from cuts in public transport.