Cash – strapped Surrey County Council has left 20 buildings empty for a cumulative total of 112 years – with one building empty for 18 years. And, some of those are in ‘Your Waverley.’
Countrywide, councils have spent £74m looking after empty buildings.
Surrey County Council based in Kingston, outside the county boundary, was created in 1889, and has been Conservative-dominated since 1973 – save for falling under ‘no overall control’ at the 1993 local elections. The council is responsible for roads, waste disposal, education and libraries. And, you may have noticed that waste disposal, and libraries are all under threat!
The empty buildings which include former nursing homes – Cobgate’s in Farnham, and Longfields in Cranleigh cost the council £307,464 in maintenance during 2016/17. The Farnham nursing home costs the most of any building to maintain – at £65,358.98. Longfields in the east of the borough is boarded up and is derelict – though it once cared for more than 70 residents of Cranleigh and the surrounding villages. It also included dementia and Alzheimer’s care, for which villagers fundraised for a sensory garden.
The information, obtained via Freedom of Information legislation, has left the council’s opposition dismayed after Lib Dem leader Cllr Hazel Watson requested it.
Cllr Watson said: “The Conservative administration at County Hall has allowed 20 of its own buildings to stand empty for a cumulative total of 112 years, with one building in Warlingham left empty for a shocking 18 years. “It is wrong these council buildings have been left empty without earning any rental income and not properly maintained, in fact, left to decay with the result they are less valuable. This is no way to manage property.”
Cllr Watson said: “These empty buildings should either be used for providing council services or let for rent or sold. “I am pressing the Conservative administration to stop wasting money and for urgent action to be taken to use, rent or sell these buildings. I regret, as a county councillor, I have had to resort to the Freedom of Information Act in order to obtain what are basic facts about county council-owned properties.
“I can only assume that the Conservative administration at County Hall deemed the information too embarrassing to provide to me, which is completely unacceptable.”
A spokesman for the council said: “While we have a very small number of properties that aren’t currently occupied, they are kept under constant review.”A great deal of work is going on to use these properties to either generate better services for residents or create an income for the benefit of all Surrey’s taxpayers.”
WW asks – why are opposition councillors forced to seek Freedom of Information Requests, to get information that should be, provided to them, and in the public domain?