The Leaders of Surrey's 11 district and borough councils have launched their 'Putting Residents First' campaign to transform local government in the county and keep decision making and services close to communities.
Work has started on proposals for a modern approach to local government, to be shared with central Government as part of the debate on its anticipated 'Recovery and Devolution' white paper this autumn.
The white paper signals its desire to reform local government - an opportunity Surrey's district and borough councils are eager and enthusiastic to embrace.
Surrey's Leaders are agreed that the proposals will centre on simplifying and improving local government. All viable options including multi-unitary solutions, are on the table as Surrey Leaders look to replace the current arrangement where responsibilities are split across district or borough councils and the county council.
Providing residents with easier and local access to all their council services, enabled by digital transformation, will be a key element of the work, as will be ensuring that the future approach protects the democratic accountability between councillors and residents.
The proposals are to be shaped and informed by new thinking, data, insight, research and engagement with residents.
The focus will be on creating local government offering the best results for residents - one which:
- Remains close to local communities
- Takes a 'place-based' approach, where services, support, infrastructures, highways and development are influenced by local need rather than a 'one size fits all' approach - all under the scrutiny of accountable, local elected representatives
- Provides value for money
- Is efficient and effective
- Makes it easy for different public and private services including councils, health, police, businesses and others to work together
- Continues to provide and improve the support and services residents need
- Reflects the geographical and population differences of the county.
Formally announcing the start of this work, Cllr Nick Prescot, Leader of Runnymede Borough Council and Chairman of the Surrey Leaders' Group, said: "The Government's proposed white paper on 'Recovery and Devolution' is a once in a lifetime opportunity to rethink what we do, how we do it and to put Surrey's 1.2 million residents squarely at the heart of future local government in the county.
"It's vital we seize this opportunity to make decision making and services accountable to and representative of our communities. Residents want to build up a working relationship with their local councillors, not be sending them an email in a queue. Local politics demands local expertise where the councillor is close by and responsive.
"Our proposals must be informed and shaped by the views and ideas of our residents. We want to hear from them and will be asking residents for their views and ideas over the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, we strongly urge Government Ministers and MPs to keep an open mind and consider all proposals when deciding the future of local government in Surrey."
In Surrey there are two tiers of local government:
A county council which provides some services across the whole area such as education, roads etc.
District and borough councils which provide a range of services for their areas including planning, housing, benefits etc.
Surrey Leaders' Group is a forum for the leaders of all councils within Surrey to meet to discuss issues relevant to all councils in the area.