Agenda item


The Chairman to respond to any questions received from Members in accordance with Procedure Rule 11.


The deadline for receipt of questions is 5pm on Tuesday 31 August 2021.


Councillor David Beaman asked the following question:


“Are either officers and/or members of the Waverley Executive been involved in formal or informal discussions over or even aware of the details of any bid by Surrey County Council to Central Government to participate in a pilot County Council devolution deal to which reference is made by Cllr Nick Darby of the opposition Residents’ Association and Independent Group of SCC Councillors in an open letter to SCC Leader Tim Oliver published in the Farnham Herald on Thursday 26th August? If not what action is being taken to ensure that the interests of Waverley Borough Council and its residents can take full advantage of any apparent devolution of any powers and responsibilities from SCC?”


The Leader responded as follows:


Along with Afghanistan, this has been one of the things that has taken up quite a lot of my time over the course of the last four weeks.  As one of the Surrey borough leaders I am part of the Surrey Leaders Group which is the 11 district and borough leaders of Surrey plus the Leader of Surrey County Council.  As you will be aware we were all informed, all the Surrey district and borough leaders, quite late in the day that Surrey was going to put in such a bid. 


The concern we have is that what is being asked for by Surrey County Council is pretty unclear, they just want to be considered for whatever is on offer.  Equally we are not entirely sure what is on offer from the Government for Surrey to be bidding for.  It seems to be some sort of combined authority powers as distinct from unitary authority powers.  I know the group that I represent at Surrey County Council, the Liberal Democrat group, but also the independent residents group at Surrey County Council, are all of the opinion that we need to keep our options open and see what Surrey are offered rather than dismiss anything out of hand at this level; and we are waiting to see what the Government response to that would be.  That being said, if Surrey County Council do try and move forward and enforce  some variety of unitary on the people of Waverley or the people of Surrey more generally, the Surrey Leaders Group have not ruled out taking further action to address that. 


So at the moment we are still waiting for some of the detail, but there might be theoretically some powers that Surrey get that might be useful to the districts and boroughs.  My only caveat would be that there are plenty of powers that they have at present that would be useful to districts and boroughs and they have not devolved any of those to us and I see no reason why an administration so keen on centralisation would actually do that if they were given further powers.  So at the moment we are keeping our options open, but it is pretty clear the track that Surrey County Council are on.


At the invitation of the Leader, Councillor Beaman read an extract from a letter from the Chief Executive of Surrey County Council in respect of the bid, regarding Surrey working with its districts and boroughs.  The Leader echoed Councillor Beaman’s comments regarding working together.