If Surrey’s bid to become a behemoth unitary authority wasn’t so serious – it would have had audiences laughing in the aisles of the home of farce at the Whitehall Theatre.
So far only £150,000 of taxpayers money has been tipped down Surrey’s sewers. Flushed away by Cllr Oliver’s attempt to convince us that his vanity project still has some mileage left in it.
They say a week is a long time in politics. Just a few days in the case of ‘Bob the Builder’ Robert Jenrick’s White Paper.
Last week Surrey County Council Leader Oliver was throwing his toys out of his pram bemoaning the fact that – ‘Jenrick’ as he referred to the Secretary of State – had pulled the plug on Cllr Oliver’s cunning plan to turn Surrey into the largest authority in the country.
Bob appeared to have pushed the destruct button on the Recovery and Devolution White Paper. Setting it back on to his ‘to-do list.’
BTB relayed the message that No 10 was not prepared to move further on local government restructuring as part of the devolution White Paper, due in the Autumn.
Over the weekend you could hear the tyres screeching on the Whitehall tarmac as yet another government U-turn took place. County council leader Tim Oliver’s power bid for a single Surrey unitary authority appeared to be over. Scuppered by Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick.
No surprise there then. The Government to-do list is growing by the day and so are the U-turns.
Up pops a fuming Cllr Oliver (Con, Weybridge) who broke the news to his fellow Tory’s by email saying:
“I have asked Jenrick to confirm what the position is regarding Surrey and we are asking some of our MPs to find out but as far as I am concerned this kills our bid.“I will confirm the position for definite if or when Jenrick answers my letter but quite why this government keeps starting fires and then walking away I really don’t know. Disappointing.”
– Surrey’s Tim Oliver can’t quite make up his mind whether or not he is actually in control of another fine mess ‘Bob the Builder’ has dumped the country in.
So with the ink barely dry on the Surrey’s borough and district councils £50,000 cheques winging their way to enable consultants (KPMG) to find a more appropriate way of joining forces with neighbouring authorities than… Wham Bang – his game of thrones is back on again!
So just days later according to Cllr Oliver its all back on again. Really – you couldn’t make it up!
“It is expected that a government White Paper on Recovery and Devolution will still be published in the coming months. In line with that, we have been working hard to determine the best system of local government for Surrey, to make sure that any devolution of power can be truly grasped by our local communities.“What is most important to me, beyond any structural change or governance, is our residents and giving them more influence over their own communities.
“We have so far received no instruction from the Secretary of State, either to proceed or to stop work on this.”
So if that’s the case why did he tell all his Tory mates it was all off?
Have the lunatics at Whitehall and No 10 taken over the asylum – or is Tempestuous Tim in such a hurry to become Surrey’s new Mayor, that he is blinded by ambition?
So where actually are we now? Well, certainly our hard-earned council taxpayers’ money is over £750,000 worse off and Cllr Oliver isn’t giving up saying:
“We need to progress … the whole local engagement and empowerment piece and I am discussing how we work that with the local Conservative group leaders.”
Someone tell him please, that the Conservative Group leaders aren’t on-board with his cunning plans?
Cllr Oliver had launched his unitary authority bid in anticipation of the White Paper, a shock move that stirred deep anger among the county’s 11 borough and district councils, including ‘Your Waverley’ that would have been wiped out. The Conservative Group at Waverley led by Cllr Julia Potts is opposing his bid.
Amid a furore that followed the shock announcement including accusations of a “power-grab”, all council leaders formed a group to challenge the plan.