1. Best for Mole Valley?

    The first full council meeting since the elections took place on 24 May.  The main business of this meeting is to elect the Leader – which on this occasion was under the new “Strong Leader” method for a period of four years.  The Leader than has the job of appointing his Executive (much like a Cabinet).  The Council then elects Chairmen for all the various committees including the important Development Control, Scrutiny and Audit committees.

    Naturally since we have a “hung council” with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats having almost equal representation, and with ourselves holding the “balance of power” there were extensive discussions beforehand in meetings and by e-mail in which David Howell, as the leader of our group, played an important role.  Our objective all along, as it has been since this time last year when the same situation applied, has been to achieve a cross-party Executive employing skills and talents across the chamber.  Last year neither major party would accept this and so reluctantly we agreed to enable the Conservatives, as the larger party, to form the Executive. During the year, after a by-election the Liberal Democrats became the larger party, and themselves offered a 3-3-1 Executive structure. However at that stage in the year, with the Conservatives clearly adopting a collaborative stance and allowing discussion in the Chamber on important issues, we felt that a change would be detrimental to the interests of the District.

    Now the situation remains as it was following the by-election, but this time the Liberal Democrats refused to accept a 3-3-1 structure and insisted on control of the Executive despite the fact that this is not the situation in the full Council.  The Conservatives by contrast offered and indeed promoted 3-3-1 and for this and for the collaborative approach which he had shown over the year, we decided to support  their candidate for Leader. Once in post he again offered the Liberal Democrats three Executive portfolios. Unfortunately they again declined, with the result that we accepted two Executive positions with the Conservatives taking four.  We remain disappointed, but look forward to the opportunity of serving the District as a whole.  We hope that our approach will encourage other Independent candidates to stand elsewhere in the District.

    The Liberal Democrats do now hold the chairmanship of most of the Council committees including the three mentioned above. It remains to be seen how they will exercise their influence in these positions.


  2. Lower Mole Countryside Project

    Many local residents will be aware of the Lower Mole Countryside Project and the good work it achieves through volunteers to maintain, preserve and enhance some of the best parts of our local countryside. including Epsom and Ashtead Commons.

    For may years the Project has been funded by a number of local authorities working in partnership.  Surrey County Council has taken the lead with the largest single contribution and also by dealing with the HR and  payroll aspects for the small number of paid employees without whom the project could not function.

    As part of the recent budget process, two of the authorities concerned, namely Kingston-upon-Thames and, more significantly, Surrey County Council, have, without any prior consultation with their partner authorities, cut their funding allocations to the project.  That is bad enough, but the project could continue, albeit somewhat curtailed, without this funding. What is worse is a plan by Surrey to withdraw from “hosting” the project – that is they wish to cease the administrative work involved in employing the staff. This is on the pretext of saving costs, although such a saving would be minimal if it exists at all because what difference would four fewer employees make to Surrey’s payroll workload?  Surrey think that the administration should be transferred to a Charity – but there is no suitable charity available, and clearly no such charity could be formed in the short timescale envisaged by the budget review.

    If you agree with us that this plan should be scrapped (even if the funding cuts continue) to enable the Lower Mole Project to survive, please sign the online petition at http://petitions.surreycc.gov.uk/Countryside.  The deadline is 2 June 2011.


  3. Epsom Hospital

    I attended a public meeting on 18 May organised by the Epsom and St Helier Hospitals “Transaction Board” – which is the body charged with masterminding the Trust’s transition to “Foundation Trust” status (the current Government requirement).  The speakers were Jan Sawkins (Chair of the Board), Matthew Hopkins (NHS Trust CEO) and Andrew Woodhead (Senior Responsible Owner – Transaction). That last title is obscure but means he is responsible for reporting on progress to NHS London.

    All hospitals have to convert to Foundation Trust status by 1 April 2014. To do so they must meet key standards in performance, governance and finance.  It was explained that Epsom Hospital is unable to become a Foundation Trust on its own, because it is unable to meet the financial requirements. A contributory factor in this is budgetary constraints acting upon Primary Care Trusts in the area which use the services of Epsom Hospital.  So the likelihood is that Epsom and St Helier will become part of separate Foundation Trusts, with Epsom linking with another partner body yet to be identified. 

    The procedure is akin to a tendering process and interested parties have to submit bids describing how they would expect a merger with Epsom to form a single Foundation Trust would work.  One of the tests will be that there is no further reduction in services provided at Epsom.  The more bids are submitted, the more beneficial the outcome is likely to be as there would be an element of competition amongst bidders. However it is not possible to guarantee that there will be more than one bid.

    The panel were unwilling to divulge at this stage who has bid or who might be expected to bid – as the matter is subject to commercial confidentiality at present. However it is hoped to reach a decision as quickly as possible, to reduce the period of uncertainty for patients and staff.

    Questions from the floor were generally supportive of the work being done but revealed anxiety about the availability of services at Epsom. The Panel attempted to reassure enquirers on this point.  Further public meetings will  be held as the project develops. Details can be obtained from the Trust website – www.epsom-sthelier.nhs.uk/foundationtrust.


  4. Road Improvements in Ashtead

    With the new Surrey Highways contract now started with May Gurney, a number of roads will be improved with a new surface dressing. The first 2 in Ashtead are Barnett Wood Lane and Farm Lane and work starts on those roads next week, weather permitting. A maximum of 2 days will be required with hopefully minimum disruption to residents and motorists.


  5. John Busby – Election Result

    At the Mole Valley count yesterday John Busby was unsuccessful in his bid to get elected to the council polling 1040 votes to Chris Hunt who polled 1335. John worked tirelessly during the campaign period and was supported by an army of helpers to whom we all owe great thanks. We would like to congratulate Chris Hunt on his victory and can ensure all the residents of Ashtead that we will all continue to work on their behalf over  the coming years.


  6. Damage to the bollards by the station – Can you help?

    After extensive lobbying by County Councillor Chris Townsend and District Councillors David Howell and John Northcott and with the support of Surrey Highways, Tesco finally agreed to pay for the works to tidy up the service road next to the Tesco Express in Craddocks Avenue and to install bollards including those at the bottom of  Woodfield Lane close to the level crossing. Two of the bollards have been broken and completely dislodged. This damage occurred sometime between the 17th February and the 3rd March 2010 and the bollards must have been hit by a large vehicle, probably reversing around the crossing. The photograph shows the damage to one of the bollards.

    Did anyone see the incident happen – if so please contact David Howell  (e-mail: Councillor.howell@molevalley.gov.uk ). A lot of money was spent on this scheme, and we would like to be able identify the party that caused the damage so we can try to have the damage repaired.


  7. John Busby Campaign Update

    After canvassing for a few weeks now, I really think that I have come to understand many of the concerns of people living in Ashtead and it has been extremely interesting meeting more people in the Village.

    The Tesco’s saga is  important to many for varying reasons and the vast majority oppose the introduction of parking meters.

    Of concern to many is the state of the paths and pavements, particularly for those who use trolleys or wheel chairs.

    Many also feel that roads ought to be resurfaced and though this is a matter for Surrey County Council, I think it would be helpful if we could have a list of when each road was scheduled to be repaired.

    The cuts Surrey County Council are making are also foremost in the mind of many, hoping that the cuts can be made sensibly and support will still be there for the voluntary sector on which many people rely.

    The vast majority of the residents I have spoken to agree that the methods and means of consultation could certainly be improved and that improving communication and dialogue with the Council was a good idea. I certainly hope that over the coming months many of the issues currently concerning residents can be discussed more effectively on the internet so that all  opinions can be aired transparently in public. I will be working the the Ashtead Residents’ Association to facilitate this development for Ashtead and hope to be able to be working on Council side also to improve transparency after May the 5th.

    As I have been asked several times, I thought it might also be useful to explain a little about what I do outside of the community. I have been a company Director for the past five years and am now primarily occupied with the running of our UK office and team, as well as the technology and communications sides of the business.

    I hope to bring my expertise in communications to the running of Mole Valley, especially to the communications between the residents, the residents association, local groups and the Councillors of Ashtead. I am somewhat younger than the average District Councillor and I hope to be able to bring fresh ideas and a new perspective to Council business.

    The Ashtead Independents are the third largest group in Mole Valley and as such can hold the balance of power, bringing a common sense approach to the debate and decision making.

    John Busby