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Your Monthly update from your LibDem Borough Councillors - covering July 2022

July 30, 2022 5:15 PM

Dear friends, here is our update on local and "not so local but still relevant or interesting" developments during July. There are no Council meetings during August so we will skip a month and send out our next update at the end of September. In the meantime, why don't you register for local updates from the Epsom & Ewell Times.

Council updates:

  • On 4th July the Council appointed Jackie King as the Interim Chief Executive after the sudden resignation of Kathryn Beldon. Jackie was previously the Director of Corporate Services. Alternative approaches to the vacancy were discussed but the meeting was in private so although we can't tell you what was said, we did make alternative ideas to save money while still being efficient!
  • Public consultation on the first stage of the vitally important Local Plan has started. It will run until 31 August (not long!) and you can have your say on the future of the Borough (including Epsom Town Centre) online here but also visit the displays in the Ashley Centre, opposite Costa Coffee from 8-31 August. Council staff will be available from 10:00 to 16:00 on Thursday 11th and Saturday 13th.
  • The Council now expects to make an operating loss of nearly £2m for 2022/23 compared to the £1.5m included in the Budget approved in February. The deterioration is mainly due to the impact of Covid being greater on items such as car parking fees than expected back in February. These operating losses can be met, for 2022/23, from reserves but this situation is clearly untenable in the medium or long term. Local Authority finances are complex to follow and David can take you through this material if you wish.
  • The Council will be receiving the minimum grant from central government under the so-called levelling up agenda. Plans to spend this were discussed at this meeting when David stressed the need to use the grants for "invest to save" projects with an emphasis on Climate Change.
  • A lack of local action on the Climate Emergency was stated by a leading RA councillor to be due to a lack of money but this is in contrast with LibDem-led Mole Valley down the road, whose actions you can read about here.
  • At various "special" Council committee meetings (we're not sure why they are denoted special), contributions from your councillors have included (a) allotments and delays in allocating vacancies (b) why there's no information on Councillor Champions who specialise in various topics (c) updating the Council's Constitution so that residents can ask questions at committee meetings (d) why so many residents seem to have more green wheelie bins than they actually use.

Other Borough updates:

  • The central government's Planning Inspectorate has overturned our Council's refusal for planning permission on the Langley Bottom Farm site. 20 homes can now be built on the site. The reasons for the Inspectorate's decision are set out here (if the link doesn't work search for 21/00044/REF as the Portal can be unreliable) which show the careful judgement needed in such developments. These issues will be relevant when producing the Local Plan mentioned previously.
  • We hope you are enjoying the pop-up art gallery/shop in the Ashley Centre. They have been granted an extension of their lease until end-September so we encourage you to have a look and possibly buy some items from local artists.
  • After running a month-long trial, the Your Local Pantry opened on South Street on 13 July. Eligible members pay £5 for a shop that would normally cost around £30. This supplements the work done by the Foodbank. David is volunteering there but they still need more helpers.
  • Many other organisations are also looking for volunteers including the following (click on the links for details): Rotary Club (various), the Tree Advisory Board (watering, trees) and The Horton (various).
  • Some of you will have received this letter dated 22 July from the Council on the latest developments around the Chalk Pit. It really does seem a case of one step forward two steps backwards in addressing the issues.

County and other local news:

  • The Tory Leader of the Surrey County Council is pressing ahead with attempts to secure a "County Deal" with central government. Local Borough and District Councils are being given an extremely short period to feed their ideas into the process. We support some increased efficiency across local government, but not at the loss of democracy. We welcome your thoughts on the matter.
  • The LibDem County Councillors have been effective during July in holding the Tory Council to account on both climate change and the cost of living.

National issues:

  • The least said about the shambolic Tory leadership campaign the better. A race to the right and the gutter.
  • Meanwhile the government's so-called plans to get to net zero have been found to be illegal by the High Court since they lack substance. Just like most of the MPs in government.
  • An influential Commons Committee has also reported that the NHS is facing its worse staffing crisis in its history. In case you think that Guardian article is biased, you can read the full report here which includes damning charts on pages 11 onwards showing a sea of Red (and a few Amber) statuses against the targets.

Our monthly podcast recommendation:

Some of you may already read The New European. There is also a podcast version which often has interesting interviews with international politicians and journalists, which provides a refreshing change from our media. Details here.

Have a good weekend, and we will write again at the end of September. Enjoy your holiday if you are fortunate enough to get away and have some rest.

Julie and David

Saturday 30 July 2022

  • Join our 200 Club and help fund our activities while having a chance to win prizes. Half the donations are returned as prizes (currently £44 and £15 each month for a £1pm ticket), details here or email Bryan Shepherd at bryshe@madasafish.com
  • Encourage others to subscribe to these Updates at https://epsom-ewell-libdems.org.uk/en/subscribe-by-email,
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  • It is now less than a year before the next Borough-wide Council elections in May 2023. If you would like to hold our council to account by becoming a councillor, please contact one of us for more information about what it involves.