HAZEL WATSON, leader of the opposition at Surrey County Council, has called on the local authority to lobby for more devolved powers in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum last month.
In a motion to go before the full council on Tuesday, the Lib Dem councillor for Dorking Hills will call on members to demand more powers from central government in order to make their own decisions on tax rises and spending.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mrs Watson said it was a unique time in local politics when constitutional debates were at the top of the agenda.
“Following the decision by the Scottish people in the independence referendum the time is right for having a discussion about devolution to more of England, including Surrey,” she told the Advertiser.
“I think if we want to influence that debate, now is the time to raise the issue and influence the outcome.
“People have seen what happened in Scotland and are saying ‘we’d like the same choice’ and I think there is an appetite for this.
“Constitutional discussions aren’t usually the top of the agenda but now it’s different and people want to be treated in a fair and equal way.”
A number of the country’s major cities, including Liverpool, have already called for more devolved powers and Mrs Watson said Surrey’s MPs as well as council leader David Hodge and his cabinet should be lobbying for an “urgent” and “major” devolution of power to the county and its surrounding boroughs and districts.
But the opposition leader has warned that any decision to devolve powers more locally must be done in a way which benefits the local community and is not something imposed upon them.
“This must include agreement that it shall be for local people and communities to decide their form of democratic leadership without having a specific model imposed – for example directly elected Mayors – in return for more powers,” she added.
But while calling for more devolved powers, Mrs Watson was unable to say what kind of system she would like to replace the current one, saying that was a “discussion for a later stage”.
The motion will be presented to a meeting at County Hall next week.