It is expected that a government White Paper on Recovery and Devolution will still be published in the coming months.
In line with that, we have been working hard to determine the best system of local government for Surrey, to make sure that any devolution of power can be truly grasped by our local communities.
What is most important to me, beyond any structural change or governance, is our residents and giving them more influence over their own communities.
We have so far received no instruction from the Secretary of State, either to proceed or to stop work on this.
It remains my belief – and the evidence backs this up - that the best system of government for Surrey is one single unitary council. A council that can deliver more power to local communities and is simpler, cheaper and more effective for residents.
The bedrock of this vision is the creation of local community networks that will give local people a greater say in the issues that affect them, using local knowledge to influence councillors and officers. We will continue to develop these exciting plans regardless of direction from government on reorganisation, so that every resident of Surrey feels they have influence over what really matters to them.
This is a shared priority of both myself and my counterparts in District and Borough councils and we have committed to work together on this.
Whilst there are alternate visions for the future system of Local Government in Surrey, there has been consensus that the current two-tiered structure must be reviewed and a good degree of support for a unitary system – albeit some disagreement around the number of unitary councils there should be in Surrey.
We have made great strides in recent years as a County Council; our stable financial position guided the County through the response to COVID-19, we continue to work to keep our residents safe and lead the recovery alongside our local partners, and the county-wide services we deliver are much improved from several years ago.
Given the challenges that we face, living with COVID-19 and dealing with its aftermath, it is even more imperative that we deliver more efficient and effective local government.
Our ambition remains - to be a council that is fit for the future, that can engage and empower the natural communities residents identify with, while also planning strategically for the benefit of the whole county.