Surrey County Council leader elected chair of national network

Surrey County Council County Cllr Tim Oliver
By Julie Armstrong, Local Democracy Reporter, 10 June

Surrey County Council’s leader will speak on behalf of England’s largest councils after being elected chair of their national network.

The County Councils Network (CCN) is the national voice for counties, and Tim Oliver has pledged to work to secure “greater devolved powers for county and unitary authorities to drive the economic recovery” and ensure the levelling up agenda “reaches all four corners of England”.

He said he wants to see county councils leading the recovery from the pandemic and delivering “social renewal”.

Former lawyer Cllr Oliver, who has led Surrey since the end of 2018, was elected as chairman unopposed and will take up the new role in September.

The cross-party body will be making the case for local government to receive sustainable funding in the government’s spending review this year, which will set the direction for the remainder of the parliament.

Cllr Oliver said the CCN would “work proactively with government to deliver reforms to both adults and children’s social care”.

He had hoped adult social care reform would be finally addressed in the Queen’s Speech, but she said only that social care reform would be “brought forward”, with no further detail or timeframe.

A bill to enact planning reforms was instead at the forefront. It proposes ridding local planning authorities of their ability to determine individual applications in areas classified as growth zones – and in doing so takes away public input.

Cllr Oliver said: “CCN must also advocate on behalf of its members to ensure planning reforms do not have a disproportionate impact on our communities.”

CCN represents 36 county and unitary councils, who collectively serve 47 per cent of the country’s population (25 million people) and are responsible for £32bn of public spending each year.

The previous CCN chairman lost his seat on Hertfordshire County Council in May’s elections.