Council 16 May 2018
Two years ago, the Residents’ Groups and Liberal Group Councillors joined together to form a coalition as the Administration on this Council.
At that time, there was much criticism, as well as speculation, that the Coalition would be short-lived and unable to achieve any significant changes to this Borough. I said then that I believed this was the most appropriate way forward for our residents and for the management of this Council.
I firmly believe that over the last two years, I have been proven correct. We delivered on our 2016 Election promises and have instigated a programme of infrastructure improvements to our car parks, Halls and Day Centres. We have also made a significant start to tackling the lack of affordable and social housing through setting up an arm’s length Housing Company, as well as developing properties in Weybridge, Thames Ditton and Cobham for homeless families to eliminate our dependency on Bed and Breakfast accommodation outside the Borough. This is one of our most significant successes, achieved without resorting to above inflation hikes in Council Tax, nor the depletion of Council reserves.
However, it is impossible to ignore the results of the Elections where the Conservative Group has 24 seats, the Residents Groups 15 and the Liberals 9. Effectively, there is no overall control of this Council.
I have thought long and hard about the most appropriate way forward, and have recognised that there is a moral case that the party with the most seats should have the first opportunity to form the next Administration.
Therefore, having consulted my colleagues, I believe in the best interests of our residents and this Council, very reluctantly, I wish to offer you my resignation as Leader of this Council.
This has been one of the most difficult decisions that I have ever had to make and in doing so I want to reassure the residents of Elmbridge that in opposition we will still have an effective voice and will continue with our full agenda, working with the Conservatives, where possible, for the benefit of the residents of Elmbridge. Equally, where we believe the Administration are not working in the best interests of the residents of Elmbridge, we will robustly hold them to account.
We will remain steadfast in our commitment to defending the Green Belt, open spaces and protecting our heritage. At the same time, we will continue to stand by our pledge to strive to enable the provision of genuinely affordable homes, particularly for young people and families, in the right places, with an emphasis on quality and design.
We stand by our decision to commit over £500,000 to renovate Hersham Village Hall and the planned improvements now in place for our other halls and day centres and ask the New Administration to honour this pledge. We are proud to have rescued the underperforming grass verge and green spaces contract. Working with the Lawn Tennis Association we have protected and enhanced the provision of public tennis courts across the Borough and hope this will continue to flourish. Despite the acknowledged problems at the start a new Waste Contract, I am pleased to say that this has now settled down providing a more comprehensive service at less cost to the local taxpayer.
I am also proud to say that, under our Administration, we delivered on the Sports Hub in Walton, introduced a flexible parking strategy across the Borough; including free Saturday parking in some areas. We invested in a more robust Planning Compliance Team. On our watch, EBC together with its range of voluntary sector partners, has been recognised as a beacon of excellence for its work in tackling loneliness, described in the local press as a ’trailblazer' and that the Government is now looking to us for best practice for advising other councils. Due to skilful financial management, our Administration, managed to deliver the lowest Council Tax increase in all of Surrey, without any cuts to services.
I would like to thank and acknowledge the tremendous work that all my Cabinet colleagues have put in over the last two years in bringing forward, sometimes under severe pressure, so many positive changes to this Borough. It is regrettable that they will not be able to build on the foundations that have been laid, but sincerely hope the new Administration will continue this good work.
Finally, Madam Mayor,
Above all, I am very proud that over the last two years, we have positively changed the philosophy of this Council, both at Member as well as officer level. We have been passionate in our pursuit of excellence, engaged and cared about the people we represent and been ambitious to get things done for Elmbridge.
I have the greatest respect for Councillor Oliver, so I hand over to you to ask him to form the Administration for the coming year.