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Conservative Surrey County Council refuses flooding debate

March 18, 2014 2:02 PM
Originally published by Surrey County Council Lib Dems

Stephen CookseyThe Conservative administration at Surrey County Council have today refused to debate a motion from the Liberal Democrats which highlighted failings by the County Council in preparing for flooding, while agreeing to debate a motion discussing an "anodyne approach" to tackling flooding .

Stephen Cooksey, the Liberal Democrat Environment and Transportation spokesperson at County Hall said: "The motion was submitted some three weeks ago and followed some days later by the second motion proposed by the Conservative administration. There are many similarities between the two motions - the main difference being that the motion that I proposed sets out some criticisms of the preparedness of the Conservative administration for severe weather and provides some suggestions for the urgent action that in our view is required in order to repair the damage and prepare for similar future situations. The administration motion in effect removes the criticism and the suggested action and provides an anodyne approach which adds nothing to what we already know.

"The Conservative administration refused to debate the Liberal Democrat because it implies some criticisms of the actions and inactions of the administration it says much for their democratic credentials. It is a sad day for the County Council that power of the majority was used to deny the opportunity even to debate a motion because it implies criticism of the administration."

The Conservative administration went on to vote against an amendment inserting critical lines from the Liberal Democrat motion into the Conservative motion.



Text of the two motions submitted. The motion from Liberal Democrat Stephen Cooksey was refused debate, the motion from Peter Martin was debated.

Mr Stephen Cooksey (Dorking South and the Holmwoods) to move under Standing Order 11 as follows:
'This council wishes to place on formal record its thanks to all staff and its contractors, who working tirelessly in partnership with other councils, agencies and the emergency services to respond to the recent and current flooding to do as much as possible to protect residents' homes and businesses.
While recognising this weather has been exceptional by past standards, the County now has a statutory duty to investigate flooding and the need to understand better the impacts of the recent events. The Council must now plan for similar occurrences and learn from any omissions or failures which may have contributed to the scale of the flooding-related problems in Surrey. Particular attention should be paid to how the resilience of the county's infrastructure against recurrence of such events can be strengthened, especially on gully maintenance, and whether any improvements can be made in cross authority and cross agency working.
Council notes:

1. That Government has a Severe Weather Recovery scheme and that the European Union has a Solidarity Fund to which the UK has contributed and is designed to provide emergency aid after such natural disasters. In addition European Union Regional Development Funds can be used towards flood prevention infrastructure in the future.
2. The date of the most recent published wetspots list, where past flooding incidents have been reported, on the County Council website is February 2012 even though an update was promised to members to be completed by February 2013.
3. That the statutory Flooding Asset Register which includes key assets (structures and features such as a wall, ditch or bridge) that are known to cause or allow the major flooding of properties, critical infrastructure or block major roads when the asset is not functioning to an adequate level was last updated in December 2011 and only contains 65 items for the whole county.

Council calls for:

i. The Flooding Asset Register and the wetspots list to both be completed and updated urgently, and at most within six months.
ii. A review of the maintenance of highway drainage assets such as gullies, soakaways, ditches, channels, drains, grills and outlets. In particular, a review of the adequacy of the policy of gully cleaning at least once per year and put together a ditching programme in rural areas.
iii. A programme of tree planting on higher ground, in particular to replace trees that have been lost, to help trap and slow down the movement of water.
iv. The County Council to work with boroughs and districts to develop planning policies not to build on flood plains.
v. Flood damaged roads and bridges to be repaired.
vi. The Leader to apply for any additional funding the County Council requires from the Severe Weather Recovery scheme, the European Union Solidarity Fund and the Regional Development Fund.'

Mr Peter Martin (Conservative. Godalming South, Milford and Witley) to move under Standing Order 11 as follows:

'This Council:

1. Notes and recognises the seriousness of the recent severe weather and flooding in the County and the impact it is having on residents' homes and businesses, with many thousands damaged, in some instances severely, as well as much of the County's infrastructure, for which the estimated repair bill currently stands at over £10m

2. Expresses sympathy and concern for the residents, businesses and livelihoods affected

3. Commends the County's Fire & Rescue Service, Surrey Police, our District and Borough Council colleagues, HM Armed Forces, SCC staff, and the large number of individuals and community and voluntary organisations on their response to this major incident

4. Acknowledges and welcomes the Government's commitment to support local authorities in helping those residents and businesses affected by providing Council Tax relief

5. Recognises that Surrey's economy, at £32.7 billion GVA, is substantial and creates a very significant net contribution to the Exchequer

This Council therefore resolves:

a) To continue working alongside our partners to help Surrey's residents and businesses with advice and assistance and to ensure any future incidents are met with a rapid, comprehensive multi-agency approach.

b) To assess the viability of longer term engineering and environmental solutions for Surrey in conjunction with utility companies, the Environment Agency, other Local Authorities and appropriate Government departments.

c) To call on Government to help protect, and demonstrate the government's commitment to, this key part of the UK economy by fully funding the Environment Agency's Lower Thames Flood Alleviation Scheme.'