Last week Surrey County Council (SCC) launched a series of consultations under the guise of “Transforming Services”, a thinly veiled way of trying to justify the most swinging cuts in recent history. SCC has to cut £250,000 from its budget which means real cuts which will bite deep.
Most prominently the “Family Resilience” consultation (there is a great deal of ‘Resilience’ involved in these consultations) proposed withdrawing funding from 37 of the current 58 Children’s Centres in Surrey which will (apparently) allow the County to provide a better service for a wider range of young people. In Guildford providing a better service means withdrawing funding from Boxgrove Children’s Centre and St Paul’s C of E Sure Start Centre while Ash Grange Sure Start Centre will offer reduced services.
Also in need of further resilience are Libraries and Cultural Services, though in these cases the proposals are all about using volunteers to run services rather than professionals.
The options offered for “transforming” the Community Recycling Centres are to close centres and increase charges. We are invited to give our opinions on three options, but all include closing Cranleigh and two options closing Farnham. Guildford is suggested as an alternative for these options which will inevitably add traffic to Guildford’s already overcrowded road systems and indeed, waiting time and endless queues on Slyfield. We know that extra cost for using the Centres means an increase in fly-tipping, which we can assume will get worse. Sadly there is no mention of these issues in the consultation.
And finally there is a proposal to take away concessionary bus travel for the disabled before 9.30 in the morning and after 11.00 at night, making it more difficult and expensive for the disabled to get to work.
This “Transformation” scheme appears to be some clever words to gloss over unacceptable cuts to our services. The consultation is a sham, couched in the language of untruths pedalling fine words to hide the reality of poorer services provided by less staff. The real purpose is to shift responsibility to the people for what is cut. Which Children’s Centre do we want to close – you decide. Which Recycling Centres? You decide. Who loses – you decide. If austerity has ended, why are we needing to doing this. The County Council needs to go back and embark on radical change which does not involve cutting services for the children, the disabled, or infrastructure that keeps us safe and secure. They could perhaps start by looking at the inflated salaries for officers and inflated ‘allowances’ and ‘expenses’ for councillors.
Shelley Grainger, who has just been elected to the Labour Party South-East Regional Board comments: “I think this consultation is designed to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the cuts as it implies people have agreed to them and shaped the outcome. While we would encourage everyone to respond to the consultations, don’t be taken in by talk of increasing ‘family resilience’ and other fine words. If you have young children, children with education difficulties, are disabled and want to hold down a job or simply want to recycle your waste responsibly, these proposals will leave your life poorer.”
As far as Guildford Labour is concerned these cuts are unacceptable and, in all likelihood, unworkable, a testament to a failed council and a failed government.