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Liberal Democrats call for Surrey County Council to release 'secret' letter to MPs

January 6, 2017 12:36 PM
Originally published by Surrey County Council Lib Dems
Cllr Hazel Watson outside County Hall

Cllr Hazel Watson

Liberal Democrat County Councillors are calling for the Leader of Surrey County Council to release a secret letter he has written to Surrey MPs regarding the county council's finances.

The letter, referred to as "certain communications from me on behalf of all of you" by the Leader of the Council at the council meeting on 6th December 2016, is believed to spell out in stark terms the financial position of the authority but has not been shared with elected members. It follows council meetings held in October and December 2016 where councillors of all parties agreed that the Leader of the Council should lobby central government for more funding for the council to help meet increased demand for services. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is a Surrey MP, should also have been sent a copy of the letter.

Cllr Hazel Watson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Councillors on Surrey County Council, said: "Making representations to MPs is a crucial step to help obtain the extra money that the county council needs. But it is only right and proper that these representations on behalf of councillors are shared with them as in February they will be making decisions on the council's budget which affect services for Surrey residents.

"These 'communications' have been kept secret and this is wrong as Surrey residents have a right to know what representations are being made on their behalf. According to reports, the Tory administration is considering a 16% council tax rise and a referendum, so Surrey residents deserve to be put in the picture regarding the real state of the council's finances.

"This secret document must be published in full for all to see due to its importance and so on 20th December 2016 I wrote to the Leader of the Council asking him to release the letter. In view of the lack of response from him, I have been forced to submit a Freedom of Information (FOI) Request to the county council for it to be released. I regret that despite being an elected councillor I have to go to these lengths to obtain vital information."

A link to the webcast of the meeting held on 6 December 2016 containing the Leader of the Council's comments on the letter can be found here (scroll to 0:50:10).

Copies of Cllr Watson's email to the Leader of the Council and subsequent FOI request can be found here.