Thank you, Madam Chairman.
When I last spoke in this chamber at our budget meeting, I shared with members the difficulties we faced in setting a balanced budget for the coming year and beyond.
Our government grant had been cut dramatically despite demand pressures for essential services rising all the time.
I know this was difficult for members because we care deeply about the services we provide to Surrey residents and businesses.
I would like to thank everyone who took part in the process for their hard work in helping us to set a balanced budget and their continuing work to make it sustainable.
Someone once said that ‘a budget is more than just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations’ and I really believe that is true.
In making the difficult decisions about how we balance our budget and the inevitable impact this will have on services, we will be judged on how those decisions meet our values.
We have been elected by our residents to take responsibility for services which help ensure everyone in our county can be healthy, confident and secure in their future. Part of this responsibility is taking decisions.
Whether these decisions relate to our critical front line services or to longer-term projects, I passionately believe our residents should be at the heart of each and every decision we take.
This is why we are committed to our strategic priorities, of:
Ensuring our residents’ wellbeing,
Creating an environment for economic prosperity,
And making sure residents have a positive experience of our services.
Whether the decisions we make relate to the school places we must provide for our children, the care and support our vulnerable adults rely upon, or the roads we maintain, if our decisions are not driven by our values, we should question why we are making them at all.
Despite the increasing pressure on our budgets we must target funding to the services where it is needed most and spend wisely to make sure this council is in the best position to tackle the significant challenges ahead.
We must continue striving to make each penny work as hard as it can and stretch every pound as far as it will go.
It is taxpayers’ money we are spending and this Conservative administration never forgets that.
But delivering successful services also means we must invest in the future.
Allow me to focus on our highways and the investment this administration has made to improve the county’s roads.
After three years of Project Horizon, I am pleased to report that we have already successfully improved two hundred miles of Surrey’s roads.
Cabinet has reviewed our spending plans and I can confirm that we will go on to deliver the next two years of Project Horizon.
This is a huge achievement, especially in light of all the challenges this council faces with reduced funding and rising demand for services.
I believe Project Horizon has made a real difference to our residents’ everyday lives, because we listened to what local people were telling us.
We know that resident satisfaction with our roads has increased significantly since 2013.
But although residents have told me they are pleased with these improvements, many others have told me the condition of the pavements is just as important to them.
As I am speaking right now, thousands of Surrey residents are using our pavements to walk to the shops, to walk to work or to walk their children to school...
We use them day in, day out, almost without noticing, but pavements are vital infrastructure for all of us.
However, we all know that this use of our pavements, along with weather and time take their toll.
I have heard it from residents and officers and I have seen it myself. Our pavements are in need of repair and maintenance...
So we have listened to what our residents have told us.
Despite the pressures this council faces, despite the fact money is tight; we knew we had to find a way to take action.
Today, I am announcing a major expansion of Project Horizon to undertake this vital restoration programme of Surrey’s pavements.
Over the next five to six years we will invest up to twenty million pounds into this essential programme.
Highways teams have spent the past year surveying our pavements so we can target high priority areas where they are most in need of improvement and where they are well-used, particularly by more vulnerable members of our communities.
This will include town and village centres, as well as areas around schools, health centres and hospitals.
The programme will start with the pavements most in need of attention and local committees will be asked to meet urgently to approve the plans drawn up by Highways for their local areas.
Over the next year, we will invest up to six million pounds to renew around seventy five miles of pavement throughout Surrey.
We will work with you – as members – and our boroughs and districts as ONE TEAM, to make a real difference for the people of Surrey.
Local Committees will be directly involved in this programme, signing off local plans so that local people are at the heart of this programme to make sure we get it right.
Surrey residents and businesses can have confidence that despite the significant financial demand-led pressures on their county council, this Conservative administration will take the brave decision to invest in their local communities.
Madam Chairman, in closing
This Conservative administration is committed to Surrey’s future,
committed to delivering value for money for Surrey residents,
and committed to listening to our residents to improve our services.
These commitments are an expression of our values and aspirations for Surrey.