Making Surrey Fit For The Future

Making Surrey fit for the future

Making Surrey Fit For The Future leaflet

At the end of the summer a four page, A4, full colour leaflet was sent to 506,000 households in Surrey. It was designed to show what a good job Surrey County Council had done responding to Coronavirus. Although it carefully withholds any mention that districts and boroughs took on the vast majority of the work. Page 3 of the leaflet is dedicated to what appears to be the real purpose of this gigantic mail shot, with the header “Making Surrey Fit For The Future.”

We’ve spoken to former civil servants, including experts from the now defunct Central Office of Information. They’ve never seen such a brazen injection of political content, on a different subject, into a public health leaflet. The cost to the public purse was not disclosed until this recent FOI update.

A separate line of enquiry could be pursued with the Electoral Commission on the grounds that the leaflet is political content without a political imprint, as required under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Hopefully before the proposed abolition of the elections regulator.

FOIs show the cost of this political project

We have started to see the first responses to Freedom of Information requests regarding the costs of Surrey County Council’s postponed bid to become a single unitary authority. It does not make pleasant reading. Perhaps most worryingly it appears that SCC have confused costs by mixing up spending with other work, complicating and obscuring just how much public money has been funnelled into this political project. Most notably a hiring spree has been underway since early this year for staff in the policy, communications and insight teams that have contributed to the unitary bid. Just one of these fixed term jobs has a salary cap of £69,514. These costs have not been acknowledged by Surrey County Council.

We now have Surrey County Council’s version of the costs.

What they say

PWC 1£50,821  actual£97,500  actual
PWC 2£20,000 actual
Henham£5,000 estimate
CIPFA£30,000 estimate
Collaborate£3,000 estimate
Resident research£37,970 estimate
FOI response – September 2020

What we know

Cost areaSpent
Initial research and financial analysis£71,000
Preparation of a comprehensive business case£97,500
Telephone and Focus Group Survey£37,970
Surrey-wide leaflet
(posing as a health advice flyer)
£13,502 printing +
£30,364 postage
Public Affairs support£5,000 per month
(£15,000 as of September)
Senior Policy Lead£69,514
Collated costs from direct contact with Surrey County Council officers

The truth.. is still out there

Making Surrey fit for the future shouldn’t mean diverting resources into a political project that hoards power in the hands of a few well connected politicians. Unfortunately this is starting to look like a national trend in county councils. A theme we will return to in future updates.