On 22nd July a copy of Michael Frater’s Report – Diagnostic and stocktaking landed in my lap and was headlined in the local press on the 24th. It devastatingly revealed a long-standing whole system failure of Surrey County Council.
A great deal of activity ensued on our part with myself, Peter Rauch, Peter Ruck of Dorking, and John Glanfield of Guildford in close collaboration. Letters were published and messages to councillors sent. Our pressure was sufficient to produce an invitation to meet the Deputy Leader on 17th August, but he cancelled at the last minute due to his ‘flu’ and the invitation was not renewed by the month’s end.
Still on Frater, some debate took place with ‘HQ’ about the degree of prominence and support given, and the protocols for quotes for the national press. Thanks to the contacts of our Peter Ruck a half-page splash was published in the London Evening Standard on 14th August including part of my statement.
Following on from the Surrey Police cap, 2 FOI questions have been lodged:
1. An analysis and past year comparison of the payroll. This, after errors were corrected, shows, to me the most significant fact emerging and which is being further questioned: non-officer strength in 2008-09 compared with 2004-05 increased by 64% and exceeds officer strength (which is down 2%) by 37%.
2. The invoiced borough costs of re-billing to give the precept reduction by ‘cap’ with detailed costings and numbers affected. The total estimated was £1.2m to refund £1.6m.
Letters were published in the local press covering the several unsatisfactory aspects of this.
Liaison continues between myself and John Bosten on the intended formal request to the County Council for a 2 x £100m refund of surplus cash invested. We need to agree on the format and establish with County Hall how to submit so as to force formal consideration and decision.
Protracted correspondence with Chief Finance Officer Phil Walker produces technical and ‘bookkeeping’ reasons against whereas the invested (including in Iceland) surplus, currently at low interest, has been steadily rising to above £300m with no earmarking for specific future employment. Frater’s serious criticisms of the budgetary process may have a bearing.
The CC advertised a questionable £46,000pa marketing post which drew a critical BBC interview quote from Mark Sinclair (HQ). I had been consulted by the Surrey Advertiser who reported including my quote.