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Council overspend tops £1m - watch the debate

Tandridge District Council is looking to make cuts in services because of a projected overspend this year of more than £1m - that's 10 per cent of the Council's general budget. It's not yet clear what the cuts will be or how they will affect residents.

The overspend has been attributed to the introduction of a new system called Customer First which was brought in to save the Council money but unfortunately the opposite has occurred.

OLRG and Independent Councillors have been flagging up problems with Customer First for months. However, they were assured that the new system was functioning well and the administration continued with the project despite our repeated concerns and clear warning signs.

At a meeting on Thursday of the Council's Strategy and Resources Committee, Independent Councillor Kevin Bourne said he had been lied to, belittled, and told he was overreacting when he had questioned Customer First. He said: 'Residents should not suffer a loss of services because the management and governance here have failed so badly. It is not their fault.' He called for a major change of approach and for equality, openness and honesty from the Council's new leadership team. He said he hoped that aim would be achieved with the formation of a new working group including Independents and OLRG Alliance Councillors to help oversee the financial and operational recovery plans.

OLRG Councillor Catherine Sayer said she had raised worries about Customer First at a number of Council meetings but had been ignored. She said: 'I am concerned now about how services to residents will be affected by cutbacks to deal with the overspend and that only essential services will be provided. I am worried about things like the planning service which has been especially badly affected by Customer First with the loss of many highly skilled and competent staff. I will be doing my best to make sure this service is properly maintained.'

At Thursday's meeting, the Conservative Council Leader Tony Elias proposed that debate about the overspend should be held in private but his motion was voted down by the Independents and OLRG Alliance Councillors and the Liberal Democrats.

The debate can be seen on this link (click start of webcast, then go to Item 9 Council Budget Monitoring):
click here