– In July this year, the Government published a review of the problems facing retail in town centres. The Grimsey Review Part 2 had a title which said it all: The Vanishing High Street.
For the first time, we have been able to hear something of these concerns expressed openly in the Waverley Council chamber. Last week there was a meeting concerning the borough’s economic strategy, which has been recorded and is available to see on Waverley’s website (Tuesday, September 11’s meeting of customer services and VFMO).
Councillor Holder raised several significant issues at the meeting, one of which indirectly is of concern to Farnham. His suggestion was that the chief executive should draw up plans if Surrey County Council should cease to exist and be replaced with four new unitary authorities. We have to question that in such an event, whether Surrey’s demise would place Crest Nicholson Sainsbury’s Brightwells scheme in jeopardy? The Farnham Theatre Association (FTA) understands from Waverley leader, Julia Potts that legal documents have been signed to the effect that Surrey County Council will meet the cost of the retail element of the scheme, once the development is completed.
Possibly to allay Waverley’s fears that its long-cherished Brightwells/East Street scheme might fail, councillor Holder has another plan up his sleeve. He has invited the Chinese Cultural Attache to visit Waverley with the assistance of Mrs Lucia Hunt (wife of our MP). She will address the Chinese delegation in mandarin to explain what Waverley has to offer Chinese tourists. Demonstrably, she will be able to explain that there is a wealth of beautiful scenery and historic architecture, but of course, no public theatre. Councillor Holder’s declared aim is to boost tourism in the borough and to bring visitors to our failing town centres. Could he possibly be considering Farnham with its Brightwells problem and that Chinese money might be the answer to the conundrum?
An open letter of mine was published in the Farnham Herald some weeks ago, which asked for thoughts and ideas about what would be best for Farnham if the retail element of the Brightwells development failed. FTA has always been clear. We propose a combined theatre/cinema operation as the focus for Brightwells (as described in the Farnham Society’s 2016 concept: Brightwells Restored). As the only purpose-built venue of this kind in Waverley, it could attract visitors and tourists to the whole borough, in support of our retail traders. Does anyone have better ideas? If so, please let us hear them!
Anne Cooper, (Farnham Theatre Association chairman), Nutshell Lane, Upper Hale
However, perhaps the Waverly Borough Cllr for Hambledon had his facts right when he dropped this little bombshell into a recent council meeting of Waverley Council? Maybe, just maybe, we are watching the beginning of the death throes of county towers? Perhaps local government final salary pensions should be finally ditched to get our local authorities back in the black, instead of slashing and burning our services?
Listen here to a clip which has sent shivers down the back of doomed Surrey County Council.
The new report says this year’s £36m funding gap could rise to £94m by 2021. Probably even further if it continues with Leader David Hodge’s present economic strategy. But fear not Surrey taxpayers, he said Surrey was“taking all the right steps”.
Finance warnings have been issued at other councils across the country, withEast Sussexplanning to strip services to the “legal minimum” and Northamptonshire warning of “radical” service cuts.
In a report commissioned by the council, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) said Surrey’s gross expenditure was expected to increase by 6.5% over four years, but funding would rise by “only 2.4%” over the same period.
It warned this would lead to a funding gap of £36m in 2018-19, rising to £86m by March 2020 and to £94m by March 2021.
The Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Surrey Chris Botten said:
“The CIPFA report says Surrey’s finance function is not fit for purpose. It is “too passive” and cannot provide the leadership required to address the current financial pressures in Surrey.
The CEO Joanna Killian called in CIPFA because she was concerned to ensure that the finance function was strong enough and on the evidence of the report has taken the appropriate steps to put things right.
The trouble is, it is seven years too late. Because the quality of financial reporting has been poor, and because of the reported “passivity” residents will face more sudden, deeper cutting service reductions because SCC didn’t start addressing the changing funding regime until a couple of years ago. The wasted years will leave a legacy of much-reduced services which will genuinely shock residents.
Councillors and officers looked like rabbits caught in a set of headlights as the member for Witley & Hambledon threw this little missile into the meeting of the Overview & Scrutiny Value for Money Committee.
No doubt, Cllr Holder (Witley & Hambledon) is willing to help sabotage the county council because he’s preparing to join the big band of Conservative councillors intent on leaving the 50 strong Tory contingents at Waverley. Presumably in these discussions at a meeting yesterday on the borough’s future Economic Strategy he is predicting the demise of Waverley Council too?
So will ‘Your Waverley’ be gobbled up by Guildford and Woking?
WW bets that Surrey’s Leader – ‘Hodge the Bodge’ will be keen to scotch this?
Last Saturday saw the DOROTHY PERKINS store in Farnham close its doors for the last time.
This brings to an end a 50 year-long association of the popular store with our town! – Here are just a few of the others – but fear not there will be dozens of new shops opening soon in the Woolmead and Blightwells developments (with our money) – won’t there?
But .. according to the DP’s store staff – another nice shop is due to take its place?
And… what about Guildford! Where two flagship stores – House of Fraser and Debenhams boasting half a million square feet of retail floor space look set to fail!
Whatever the outcome of takeover talks going on as we type, questions will remain over the sustainability of these two anchor department stores in Guildford, and there will be concerns about the possible economic and fiscal implications, locally, should either fail.
Additionally, current council plans (Guildford BC) for up to 420,000 square feet of new retail space on North Street might now look even more doubtful, especially following the Local Plan examiner’s remarks querying the logic of this allocation, despite GBC’s planning department’s defence of their decision.
Tory councils, with the backing of Surrey County Council, are so arrogant as they play Monopoly with our money! Can’t they read the runes?
House of Fraser, Guildford was refitted and relaunched as a new store in 2000. It waspreviously known as the Army & Navy, and before that Harvey’s. The store includes the Jellicoe Heritage Roof Garden, a water garden designed and installed by the late Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe in 1958 and where customers could once sit and eat enjoying a panoramic view across the town. It was closed for health and safety reasons. It has a grade II listing from English Heritage and, according to the House of Fraser website, has a dedicated gardener.
The car ablaze adjacent to woodland near Keepers Cottage, Cranleigh!
Because most of the time Cranleigh’s single pump machine has been seen racing around the Surrey countryside attempting to cover for other stations that are either unmanned or are running an overtime ban!
Of course, for Surrey County Council, paying part-time (retained) firemen to stand-by in other parts of the county isn’t cheap. It costs shedloads of money to take firefighters out of area! In addition, they are then unavailable to cover their own areas so if an incident occurs in Cranleigh firemen then travel from Dorking travel home again and then trouser even more cash. If the waste of taxpayer’s money wasn’t so serious it would be funny?
You couldn’t make it up?
But then why would Dumb & Dumber at County Towers give a damn. They’re too busy putting the cold steel of council budget cuts right through the heart of our vital emergency services. So much so Surrey’s head honcho in the brigade has been kicked into touch because he’s not prepared to put his name to cuts that he believes will impact on manpower and put Surry’s residents lives at risk. So his loyal staff have banned overtime!
THIS IS A SERIOUS FIRE SAFETY ANNOUNCEMENT. FOR GODALMING AND THE SURROUNDING AREAS. STAINES FIRE STATION IS CLOSED YET AGAIN TONIGHT FROM 18.00 – 0.900 DUE TO HAVING INSUFFICIENT FIREFIGHTERS, THE SAME APPLIES TO BANSTEAD – CLOSED.
GUILDFORD, WOKING & CAMBERLEY ALL DOWN 50%.
LET’S ALL HOPE THAT THIS HEATWAVE DOESN’T PRODUCE HEATH FIRES!!
Surrey’s chief fire officer Russell Pearson, a man who wears his honours for “dedicated service to the emergency services” with pride has been thrown out of the service after resisting budget cuts.
That’s the claim of Fire Brigade Union’s after the highly respected chief officer who was featured in this year’s New Year’s Honours was ousted, just seven months later, from his job! Why? Because he warned that reducing fire cover would leave the county’s Fire & Rescue Services unable to protect US, the public.
Well done Dumb – you never let us down – you prefer to fritter away over £50m of Surrey taxpayer’s money on an unpopular retail development in Farnham that commercial backers wouldn’t touch with a bargepole – to compromise our safety wouldn’t you?
Perhaps you haven’t heard Dumber that more than 30,000 store chains in this country are in crisis? Facing such financial stress meaning many more businesses will follow the wave of store closures that are sweeping through our towns and cities – including wealthy Surrey! The very same stores in which you invested OUR money, preferring instead to put our lives at risk?
Recently you asked Surrey residents what their priorities were: We here at the Waverley Web believe – keeping us safe – is a top priority along with caring for the elderly and vulnerable children.
Mr Pearson joined SFRS in 1992 and has served as the county’s chief fire officer since 2007.
The FBU released a statement saying that Mr Pearson will no longer hold his 11-year position and the union fears he was “ousted” due to his stance on further service savings.
A Surrey County Council (SCC) spokesman said in response: “We cannot comment on speculation about individuals.”
“I am in no doubt that the only reason SCC would replace Russell Pearson is so they can get someone in to do a hatchet job, solely to make cuts without any regard to public or firefighter safety,” claims Richard Jones, executive council member for the FBU for the south-east.
“With emergency response times in Surrey at their slowest since 1996, the number of fires we attend and rescues we make increasing year on year since 2015, further cuts are absolutely absurd and show SCC is prioritising monetary savings ahead of public safety.”
In June last year firefighters and union members declared a motion of no confidence and one year on, this motion is still in place.
The FBU says that since 2010 more than £20 million has been saved from SFRS budget, and an additional £661,000 is expected to be saved this year alone.
According to SCC’s Medium Term Financial Plan, savings of £4.075 million and £1.8 million are expected in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
According to the FBU chairman Lee Belsten the service is now “dangerously close to the mark” and its frontline response and emergency control resources will be “decimated” if funding cuts continue.
He argued that staff shortages, as well as reduced resources, means all of Surrey’s fire stations are currently below 20 firefighters, response time remains up to 10% under target, on-call crew are 40% deficient and emergency control staff are up to 50% short.
Overall, the number of firefighters in Surrey have plummeted by 40%, claimed the FBU, resulting in numerous fire appliances being left unavailable in times of emergency because there are not enough firefighters to crew them.
However, a SCC spokesman says: “we have carried out a recruitment campaign and are making a significant investment to our new fire stations, equipment and vehicles to meet the needs of a modern fire service”.
‘Fire service on its knees’
Following the FBU statement on Mr Pearson, an anonymous firefighter said “Russell has been doing an amazing job fighting the cuts, there’s the suspicion that because he is not willing to support the cuts that’s one reason he’s been pushed to the side.
“He’s the right man for the job, he’s passionate about the fire service and doesn’t want to see it get any smaller. The fire service is on its knees, if they bring in any more cuts it will be a case of which station will they close next.
“They are relying on the goodwill of firefighters to come in on their days off. We don’t want the public thinking that we are letting them down, we just don’t have the resources.”
Another firefighter, who also did not wish to give their name, said:“I think the whole thing is disgusting, Russell has done nothing but work hard for the fire service.“If they’ve got rid of him because he doesn’t do what they want him to do, then that seems like an awful way to do things. He’s been pushing back against the cuts and, speaking from the front line, there’s nothing more that the fire service can give.”
There were villagers over there in the east believing that they were to get the new ‘village hospital’ they have eagerly awaited for the past 20 years – and then up pops a weasel!
What’s more it isn’t half a pound of tuppeny rice that is about to buy Cranleigh and the surrounding villages a proposed 60-bed private nursing home, ten social care beds and ten community beds – it was millions of pounds of their money following two-decades of local fundraising.
Decades ago the parish council was duped into handing over a former recreation ground owned by the parish to local charity – Cranleigh Village Hospital Trust – in return for land swapped by a man villagers now describe as a ‘local benefucter.’ Self-same benefucter who has trousered millions for a huge development of 265 homes in Elm Bridge Road.
The CVH Trust was going to build a replacement hospital plus a day hospital and 14 beds following the closure of one of the oldest cottage hospitals in the country on theparish land. Now same trust is going to present its cunning plans to the council to build a nursing home for A-One, a countrywide private care company. It will tell how it will – solve the county council’s social care bed crisis with 10 beds, allowing it to sell off the defunct Long Fields nursing home site in Ewhurst Road. Before its closure three years ago it boasted 50+ beds,. Now thanks to the ‘Charity’ it can trouser the cash from the sale of land to help fill the big black hole at Surrey county towers! This leaves Cranleigh with minus 40 social care beds, but 60 private commercial rate beds costing?
Now there’s a question – how much?
The ten beds community beds are for…? Wait for it, yes, you guessed patients from among the 25 GP practices that make up the Guildford & Waverley Clinical Commissioning Group! So much for localism?
We should also mention that the private for profit THREE-STOREY nursing home, built on valuable parish land also comes with a 26 block of residential flats and… two access – one from Knowle Lane immediateky alongside Whisker Drive the other along the parish owned road to the Snoxhall Playing Fields! What does the parish council get out of this? Pop along and you may find out?
Angry of Cranleigh wrote to us here at the Waverley Web, saying he had just spotted on the parish noticeboard that ‘THE TRUSTWORTHY TRUST,’ as it was depicted in a local magazine recently, is to present its plans to the parish council, tonight Thursday at 7p.m. Council Offices, Village Way.
Perhaps our little spider sould be climbing up said parish council office wall- because when villagers get to hear where their treacle has gone – they may want to climb a few walls too?
Cranleigh gets more like Farnham every day – in a word SHAFTED!
Thankfully Cranleigh and Ewhurst County councillor has come riding to the rescue of the beleaguered county council forced to make savings of £250m over the next three years if it is to stay afloat. We could almost hear his whip cracking against the Tory leader’s back.
He tried to dislodge Hodge the Bodge earlier this year, but failed… miserably… though he argued it was NOT unanimous!
Whilst back-stabbing is a popular sport at county towers, there is no-one more adept at the practice than a Povey! A man who we hear never bears a grudge!!!
Suffice to say, Surrey County Council’s female finance director picked up her Radley and walked – along with her plump final salary local government pension giving just 24 hours notice! Temper, temper!
But in trots our little Povey eager to ride on the back of misfortune to point yet another blunt stick into Hodge’s eyeballs, accusing him of “not running sustainable budgets and there being a while elephant in the room!” More like a rat in the run?
He says” “I am concerned, I have been in business for 30 years and one thing in business you learn over everything else is that you follow the money.”
You hit the nail on the head there Councillor Povey, because if anyone followed the money you did!! Ask Guildford MP Anne Milton?
He continues:‘You take it to bed with you,(what the money, or the budget?)you take the medium term strategy to bed with you to read again and again. Those that don’t, end up like Carillion or Northamptonshire County Council.”
He then waxed lyrical about the finance director’s departure flashing up lots of red lights, and issued a stern warning to his colleagues!
“A finance director leaving at short notice is another warning you need to take account of.”
Do we see another attempt by the Povey Pony riding to the rescue, to unseat Hodge the Bodge?
Needless to say a SCC spokesperson said that finance director Sheila Little “has decided this is a good time to pursue other opportunities, and we wish her well.” An interim director has been apointed and a new director will be in place in the Autumn.
Any politician who starts a diatribe with … “I’ve always been clear” is a guarantee that what he is about to say is anything but… and resembles MUD!
Here’s David ‘Autocue’ Hodge reading a statement about the launch of Surrey County Council’s new vision – it’s only a draft vision he hastens to add – because what he really wants is YOUR VISION! What should Surrey look like by 2030? Well, you know what to do then –read about it here and complete the survey here.