The Social Democratic Party (SDP) today announces its opposition to Conservative-controlled Surrey County Council’s proposal create a “single unitary authority” across Surrey, which will eliminate the county’s 11 Borough and District councils.
If created, a single Surrey unitary authority would contain 1.2 million people: a population larger than Birmingham, and over twice the size of England’s next-largest unitary authority. This poses a grave danger to local government accountability across Surrey, while also reducing the relative power of individuals and communities throughout the county.
“As a communitarian party, the SDP believes councillors or officers of local government are firstly and foremostly representatives of the people for whom it provides services,” says Pip English, SDP South East Chairman. “This proposal from Surrey County Council shows a complete failure to comprehend this truth. Through regarding the value of local government only in financial terms, this proposal would create an impenetrable bureaucratic mess that would be inflexible to the interests of people across Surrey.”
“It is the people of Surrey who should ultimately decide how their local services are delivered, and this proposal by the council has fundamentally failed to consider this. Instead, Surrey County Council plans to conduct a cursory survey of the local population that will fail to take into account their desire to have accessible and local representatives and institutions,” added Ian Woodley, SDP Surrey Organiser.
The SDP calls upon Surrey County Council to abandon this proposal, and instead investigate the counter-proposal of the Surrey Leaders’ Group of splitting the county into three equally-sized local authorities of 400,000 people. This would preserve accountability, improve administrative efficiency, and ensure the council can focus its energy on its main task – delivering vital services for local people.