surrey county council

WOKING has at last succeeded in attracting the county council’s headquarters to the town, Guilford having lost out in its aspiration to be Surrey’s administrative centre.

The two towns have been vying for nearly 50 years to lure Surrey County Council away from its base at Kingston, which became part of Greater London in 1965 and is therefore outside the county boundary.

A rear view of Midas House, which has an underground car park with spaces for around 160 spaces

The council has decided to move its HQ back into the “heart of the county”, to an office block in Goldsworth Road, Woking.

The council is buying Midas House from Woking Borough Council, which purchased the building in February this year for £23.4m. The authority owns several other office blocks in the town centre, including the Export House tower and Dukes Court, as part of its policy of safeguarding office accommodation

Colin Kemp (left) and Saj Hussain, who are both members of Woking borough and Surrey county councils, welcome County Hall moving to Midas House

County council leader Tim Oliver said staff will begin to move out of Kingston in phases from spring 2020. It is understood the council will be taking over vacant space on three floors of Midas House, which can accommodate up to 1,500 people.

Cllr Oliver said: “Aside from the fact that the new civic heart will now actually be inside the county of Surrey, which has been our long-held ambition, the real driver has been the desire to place services right at the heart of the population we are here to serve.

“A new modern facility in Woking will help us achieve not only those objectives but will also help to position us as a leading council fit for the future.”

The council chamber, the senior leadership team and staff representing all the council’s functions and services will be based at Midas House. Other teams will be relocated to council offices in Leatherhead, Guildford and Reigate.

For the full story get the 7 November edition of the News & Mail

THE moving of Surrey County Council headquarters to Woking has been widely praised – but a warning has been issued that the decision has not been finalised.

Last week the council announced that it has decided to move from Kingston, which has been part of Greater London since 1965, to the Midas House office block in Goldsworth Road.

A rear view of Midas House, which has an underground car park with spaces for around 160 spaces

However, Will Forster, who is chairman of the council’s Task Group responsible for scrutinising the move, said there was a lot of work to do before County Hall was sold and the headquarters moved to Woking.

Cllr Forster, who is county councillor for Woking South as well as borough councillor for Hoe Valley, said he was pleased at the planned move, which would be a good boost for the town’s economy and reputation.

Cllr Will Forster

“The council’s Task Group has not scrutinised the plans, so there is a lot of work to do before the County Council moves to Woking and sells County Hall.  These plans need scrutinising to ensure they are value for money.”

David Bittleston, Woking Borough Council leader, said: “It is fantastic news both for Woking and the wider county”.

He added: “The move will be a major boost for Woking, bringing further new and exciting economic opportunities, jobs and making the town busier and more vibrant.”

Paul Webster, from Woking Chamber of Commerce, also said the move would bring more jobs and people to Woking and “will be good for the retailers and good for business generally”.

For the full story get the 7 November edition of the News & Mail

FIREFIGHTERS are likely to vote on industrial action against a plan that includes one of Woking’s fire engines being unavailable for night-time emergency calls.

A firefighter tackles a housefire

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is furious at a reorganisation that will see seven engines at full-time stations across the county without crews from 6pm to 9am.

The plan, called Making Surrey Safer, was unanimously approved by the county council’s cabinet on Tuesday last week, despite huge opposition from firefighters and a petition signed by more than 11,000 people.

It will mean Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) will nominally have 23 front-line fire engines on call overnight throughout the week, instead of the current 30.

Claims that the brigade already does not have enough frontline and control room staff to provide safe emergency cover had led the FBU to launch a trade dispute before the cabinet meeting.

The union has given the service until Monday to address its concerns, or it will hold an industrial action ballot.

For the full story get the 3 October edition of the News & Mail

SURREY’S firefighters say their brigade is “on its knees” through staff shortages which make several fire engines unavailable every day across the county.

They are urging people to complain to their county and borough councillors about the dire state of Surrey Fire and Rescue Service.

The closed-down Robin Hood pub at Knaphill was destroyed by fire in May. Woking Fire Station, which covers the area, often has just one of its engines available due to staff shortages

Fire crews and their union also say councillors must oppose a proposed reorganisation which will take wholetime fire engines out of service during the night shift and at weekends.

The anger of firefighters comes at a time when up to 12 fire engines at wholetime stations are unavailable at the start of each watch, or shift, due to staff shortages.

Stations which are regularly shut due to shortages include Painshill, Walton, Esher and Banstead. The new station at Ashford, Fordbridge – an amalgamation of the now defunct Sunbury and Staines stations – is also suffering staff shortages.

The reasoning behind the proposed reduction in appliances overnight, set out in the Making Surrey Safer plan, is a fall in the number of fires attended by the UK fire service in recent years. Surrey Fire and Rescue Service wants to move more resources into fire prevention duties.

But the FBU says that most deaths in fires occur between 6pm and 9am and is opposing the night-time reduction in cover.

A Woking firefighter commented: “For a few months we have warned of a storm on the horizon. That storm grows ever closer. This was completely foreseeable, but management chose to ignore it.”

“Now is the time for the public to fight for your fire service and oppose these cuts and complain, to your local councillor. The battle is looming, and together as a community we can, and we will win.”

Surrey County Council’s cabinet is due to receive a report on the Making Surrey Safer recommendations following the public consultation. The reorganisation is planned to be implemented in 2020.

For the full story get today’s (29 August) edition of the News & Mail

RECYCLED waste plastic waste from bottles, bags and packaging has been used in pavements for the first time in Surrey.

The trial has seen waste plastic that would otherwise have gone to incineration or landfill used in asphalt to resurface pavements in Horsell Rise, Woking, and Brighton Road, Burgh Heath, before extending the trial into Kent.

Trials begin on Surrey’s first waste plastic pavement

The joint project is being led by electricity distributor, UK Power Networks which carries out roadworks to install, maintain and upgrade the cables delivering power to 8.3 million homes and businesses, with reinstatement contractor Stanmore Quality Surfacing (SQS), in partnership with Surrey and Kent county councils.

“This is the first time waste plastic has been used on Surrey’s street works and if tests prove successful, this could pave the way for wider use by other utilities,” said Mark Baker, senior groundworks manager at UK Power Networks.

In the trial across Surrey and Kent, UK Power Networks and SQS will use 17 tonnes of asphalt containing the equivalent of 14,571 single use carrier bags or 5,100 plastic bottles.

For the full story get the 22 August edition of the News & Mail

SURREY County Council declared a climate change emergency last week, as Extinction Rebellion protesters staged a “die-in” outside County Hall.

Extinction Rebellion protesters lie sprawled outside County Hall as part of a “Die-in”

Climate change campaigners lay sprawled on the ground outside the council offices, ahead of councillors arriving for their meeting. The protestors, wearing animal masks, were highlighting the loss of species and damage to human life support systems, caused by increasing carbon emissions.

Three months before, the council had angered protesters by refusing to back a pledge to meet targets and declare an emergency in a motion put forward by Green Cllr Jonathan Essex.

This time, a Climate Emergency Motion, with the aim of going carbon neutral by 2050, was put forward by Conservative Cllr Mike Goodman, cabinet member for environment, and seconded by Liberal Democrat Cllr Will Forster, and gained cross-party support.

“After trying to get Surrey to move forward on its climate commitments earlier this year, we’ve finally got some progress,” said Cllr Essex after the meeting.

For the full story get the 18 July edition of the News & Mail

THE League Against Cruel Sports was chosen by residents to receive proceeds from the sale of second hand goods at the Martyrs Lane community tip in Woking.

Louise Morton hands over a cheque for £1,432.75 to League Against Cruel Sports chief executive Andy Knott

The animal welfare charity is a beneficiary of money taken at the Revive shop, which sells reusable items taken to the recycling centre by the public.

It was presented with £1,432.75 – 10 per cent of the quarterly proceeds from the shop, whose customers nominated the league to receive a donation.

The Martyrs Lane centre and shop are run by SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK on behalf of Surrey County Council. The company’s Surrey communications manager, Louise Morton, visited the league’s headquarters in Godalming last week to meet its chief executive, Andy Knott, and hand over a cheque.

Mr Knott commented: “A big thank you to staff and customers at the Martyr’s Lane Revive shop, who are helping to both protect the environment and stop the persecution of animals in the name of cruel sports.”

For the full story get the 25 April edition of the News & Mail

WOKING could become home to Surrey County Council’s new headquarters, turning it into the county town.

On Tuesday, the county Cabinet will discuss a report calling for the council to move from Kingston by the end of next year. Woking and Guildford are the leading options for the new site.

The location for the WWF headquarters in Woking was considered for Surrey County Council’s HQ before the WWF moved in.

The move will involve establishing a “Civic Heart” where many of the functions of County Hall will be located.

The possible Woking site of the Civic Heart has not been revealed but is believed to include part or all of the police station/coroner’s court complex, Dukes Court, or one of the other town centre buildings not yet earmarked for redevelopment.

It is part of wider plans by the county council to save tens of millions of pounds by reducing the number of buildings the council uses from 300 to 100.

The report, by council leader Tim Oliver, states that staff will no longer all have to be in one central location but become an “agile workforce” with the majority “able to work anytime, anywhere, supported by the right technology.

“The adoption of an increasingly agile way of working for staff calls into question the place of the County Hall complex in Kingston, which, since county boundary changes in 1965, falls outside the administrative boundary of Surrey, no longer lends itself to supporting modern ways of working, and is costly to maintain.”

Over the past 54 years, several proposals have been made for the relocation of County Hall, with the Brewery Road car park, now the site of the WWF-UK headquarters, being raised at one point.

Cllr Oliver’s report said that one of the criteria for a Civic Heart would be “accessibility from across Surrey and from London, such as proximity to main road and rail networks.”

Would you like to see Woking become home to the Civic Heart? If so, where should it be located? Email editor@wokingnewsandmail.org.

For the full story get the 25 April edition of the News & Mail

WOKING’S firefighters are urging the public to sign a petition to halt plans which would see one fire engine with a crew of just four covering the borough at night.

They are also asking people to lobby their councillors and MP as part of a campaign against a reduction in night-time fire service cover across the county.

Local firefighters are worried that proposed cuts will lead to an increase in preventable deaths and injuries

The cuts are detailed in a Surrey Fire and Rescue Service proposal which would see seven whole-time appliances left un-crewed between 7am and 7pm. During this time, 23 engines would be available instead of the current 30.

The reorganisation – called Making Surrey Safer – plans for Woking, Guildford, Camberley and Spelthorne stations to each lose one of their two engines and single-appliance stations Egham, Painshill and Banstead to close completely at night.

The Surrey branch of the Fire Brigades Union is leading the campaign against the cuts, which it says will cause more preventable deaths and injuries and increase the time it takes to get fire crews to incidents.

“There may be fewer house fires than in the past, but 74% of all deaths in fires occur at night, when we need to maintain our cover for that reason alone,” the union’s Woking representative, Graham Whitfield, told the News & Mail.

“We are inviting councillors to come and meet us to find out why we think the cuts will be dangerous, for the public and firefighters.

“We are the troops on the ground and have to deal with members of the public when there is an emergency. If the councillors knew exactly what we do at incidents, then they might change their minds about the cuts.”

He asked the public to visit the station’s Facebook page to find the email addresses of councillors they should lobby and to sign the FBU petition at
https://petitions.surreycc.gov.uk/Fire-Cuts/

For the full story get the 18 April edition of the News & Mail

SURREY Straw Switch took off in Woking town centre as local outlets serving cold drinks to sip or slurp raised their glasses to a plastic straw free future.

Managing director of the Paper Straw Group, Natalie Stephens, with Martin Durrad, landlord of The Garribaldi pub in Knaphill

The Woking-based company Paper Straw Group gave away around 6,000 paper straws as part of an initiative backed by the local council and Surrey County Council to be the first plastic straw free county.

Having set up a station for the event at Café Rouge in Victoria Square, Natalie Stephens, managing director of the Paper Straw Group, and her team gave away packs of their bespoke paper straws to businesses that currently offer straws to their customers, including Patches of Horsell, the New Victoria Theatre and Café Rouge itself.

“We would really like to make Surrey the first county that has no plastic straws and then would be more than happy to take that nationwide,” said Natalie. “It’s been wonderful to see the support this has.”

In addition to Woking Mayor Cllr Will Forster and a number of other local councillors visiting the launch, councillors from Epsom and Ewell also visited as one of the districts that is looking at holding a similar launch.

The straws are being made in Woking with UK materials, including vegetarian-friendly ink, on bespoke machinery. This includes 100% plastic-free glue, which is one of the factors that the company has said makes it stand out from other similar products.

For the full story get the 4 April edition of the News & Mail