Message from the Leader - February
The period immediately after the New Year is always the busiest in the annual Council calendar, and the start of 2020 has been no different; particularly with the work needed to launch the draft Local Plan for public consultation.
The draft Local Plan's consultation opened on 3 February. I would encourage participation from all communities and residents so that we can have a true and accurate picture of local responses to the proposals set out.
The draft plan has been constructed on the basis of central Government demands that Mole Valley finds sufficient space for 7,100 houses to be built during the 15-year plan period. This cannot be achieved without building in the Green Belt. Our previous discussions with Government have emphasised that fact, but to no avail.
Following recent statements by the Prime Minister, I have submitted a letter signed by the 22 Liberal Democrat members of the Council to the Prime Minister, seeking a further meeting with Government to try to reduce the number of houses that government is demanding, and thereby reduce the impact on the Green Belt.
On 11 February, this administration's first budget was approved. We are confident that our new initiatives will make a difference for our residents. However, we are concerned that we have been given no indication of what the Government has in store for us in the foreseeable future. Following years of austerity and cuts in local government funding, it is to be hoped that the new funding formula will bring much-needed additional resources to Councils such as ours.
Our commitment to combat climate change received a significant boost as a consequence of the budget and further proposals will shortly be coming forward following the completion of the carbon audit by the Carbon Trust. February 13 and 14 saw the inauguration of our new water refill points in Dorking and Leatherhead. Our first electric vehicle charging points are also already in operation. More will follow.
The work of the Surrey Leader's and Chief Executives Climate Change Working Group is now underway and I am meeting with the other members of that group to further our plans to seek co-operation across the County to undertake joint climate change projects of mutual benefit.
Our commitment to improving life in our main towns continues apace with the provision of significant funding for a design project for the proposed Leatherhead Riverside Park and the inauguration of the new Opportunity Dorking project, for which a detailed programme has now been agreed.
On the weekend before Christmas, we experienced some severe weather which resulted in flooding in a small number of homes. I would like to thank our staff - over 50 of whom volunteered to work, despite it being the weekend before Christmas, to help residents and ensure that we were ready if the weather worsened. They delivered sandbags in the early hours of the morning in heavy rain, prepared for potential evacuations, checked flooded areas and provided reassurance to residents. It was a major effort which we should recognise and applaud.
We are a listening Council that tries very hard to respond to concerns and complaints raised by residents. One recent example is our actions following a series of complaints about inappropriate parking and dog fouling on Cotmandene. We consulted the public on proposals to tackle the problems and, as a consequence, we introduced a Public Space Protection Order in January to help reduce instances of anti-social behaviour.
Finally, it is important to note that we have been successful in obtaining extra government funding for our Rough Sleeper initiative. That allows the continuation of a post which works with those in need and the provision of extra assessment beds for Rough Sleepers.
Councillor Stephen Cooksey
Leader of the Council
Previous messages from the Leader