Councillor Update

31st July 2020

My activity update to 31 July as College Wards’ Residents Association Councillor by Cllr. Nigel Collin

July has felt like a less abnormal month with many more virtual meetings than in recent months.

The CWRA committee met on 1 July and, among other matters, discussed the process for selecting a candidate for the County Council Election to be held in May 2021.

On 2 July, the Strategy & Resources Committee met to consider the Council’s response to the Covid 19 pandemic. The Committee noted the significant action which had been taken by the Council in providing support for the most vulnerable in the community. As a result, a deficit of £2.5m was projected in the first quarter with the recurring cost estimated at £700k pm. The Committee agreed to fund the Q1 exceptional cost from the Council’s reserves. The committee also established the process for conducting the forthcoming electoral review.

On 3 July, I listened to the webinar about the future of Epsom Hospital where the three Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) announced their decision. Having listened to the Consultation Webinar for 2.5 hours, it was clear, as expected, that Sutton would be chosen as the site for the new acute hospital. This site won 100% approval from the CCGs. Thus, by say 2025/6, Epsom General Hospital will become a District Hospital.  The Trust now has to prepare an Outline Business case which, if approved, will lead to a Final Business Case. Both cases will be subject to governance by a strategic oversight group and regulators from the CCGs to ensure that the  recommendations, approved on 3 July, are carried out. No further involvement by NHS England is required. Merton Council has resolved to challenge the decision and has written to Matt Hancock to request a review.

The RA group meeting on 6 July considered the forthcoming Boundary commission review and its potential impact on the Borough’s wards. The data requires estimates of future electors to be taken into consideration to assess which wards might be under or over represented.

On 7 July the Twinning Committee held a meeting with our French counterparts and suggestions for the 25th Anniversary celebrations were discussed. These celebrations are likely to take place in the spring of 2021and may be focused on an equine element.

On 9 July my day started with a webinar, given by the Local Government Association, setting out the role and best practice of the audit scrutiny committee. The webinar contained several detailed observations which, since I sit on this committee, I have followed up with the Chair. 

In the evening, I sat as a substitute member of the planning committee where the Council’s Wells application was discussed. At the end of 2 ½ hours debate the committee voted to defer the planning application.

On 13 July, a member’s briefing entitled Probity in Planning was hosted by a QC with extensive experience in this area. Several examples were tabled and the main point to remember for those on the planning committee was to avoid being predetermined and to consider all applications with an open mind.

The RA group meeting on 20 July debated the proposal by SCC to become a Unitary Authority. This move would centralise all local decision making in a central body with the probability that all District Councils would be dissolved with the possibility of being substituted by Town Councils. The RA group leadership had not been consulted on this proposal and felt strongly, as did other Councils, that this would not be in the best interests of residents.

On 21 July a full Council meeting was held. This was the first ordinary Council meeting of the year. The mayor announced that his 3 chosen charities were; the Epsom and Ewell community fund, Love me Love my mind and Age Concern.

The principal decisions taken by the Council were as follows;

The motion recognizing the impact on Covid 19 include the continuation of lobbying of Central Government for further funding support was passed.

The future structure of local government in Surrey was debated and the Chief Executive was authorized to start discussions with all local authorities to consider this.

A motion to thank EEBC’s members and staff for their Covid 19 work was passed. In addition, a motion was passed to support action promoting community cohesion by adopting anti-racism equality and justice policies.

On 27 July the first of two briefings on the local plan took place. The revised timetable, extended because of Covid 19, was discussed. The Head of Planning was anxious to reduce the current polices, in excess of 100, to a more manageable number. HMG’s housing target is currently under review with the latest ONS statistics showing that a lower number of houses is now required.

 On 28 July a further Strategy & Resources Committee meeting was held to consider the Asset Management plan, the Local Government Association communications peer review, the 2019/20 financial outturn and the Treasury Management year end performance. After due consideration, all the reports were approved.

On 29 July the newly elected Councillors had a virtual meeting with a member of Pembrokshire County Council who is Deputy Chair of the Improvement and Innovation board. Pembrokshire County Council is a Unitary Authority.

Although Cllrs are still unable to enter the Town Hall to protect the emergency response teams working inside, it is evident from my activity report that many more virtual meetings are now  being held.

My case load this month has mainly centered on noise nuisance, anti-social behavior (ASB) at Alexandra Park and to a lesser extent on planning matters. Residents are urged to report all ASB in respect of Alexandra Park to the police by phoning 101, action will only be taken if the police are made aware of the problems.

Alexandra Park

The three separate approaches which have been made to EEBC to open a community café in Alexandra Park are currently being examined to determine the preferred bidder. The preferred site is the pavilion closest to the bowling green and, since this pavilion is a polling station, each proposal needs to be carefully evaluated. All three of your ward Cllrs are in favour of the concept and are working with EEBC to see what might be possible.  If agreement can be reached, the earliest opening date is in the Spring/Summer of 2021.

In closing I would urge everybody to continue to heed the Government ‘s advice with regard to social distancing and the wearing of masks.

Please address any urgent issues via email to info@collegeward.org