The Aussies are coming
The Australian Olympic road cycling team has decided to train in Surrey as it prepares for the Olympic road cycle races and time trial events next year, which will both take place in the county. The athletes and their entourage will initially train in Surrey this summer when cyclists will take part in the London-Surrey Cycle Classic, an elite test race on Sunday 14 August. The team will then be based in Surrey next summer to prepare for the Games. Attracting a high-profile team like the Australian cyclists is a major promotional coup, as Surrey County Council is working hard to attract Olympic teams to the county in an effort to maximise the benefit for the local economy. Antigua and Barbuda and the Cayman Islands have already decided to train in the county, as has Croatia's Paralympic team. The council is also in advanced talks with a number of other nations. Coverage included the national news section of the BBC's website
, cycling publications such as Road Cycling UK, the Surrey Advertiser and BBC Radio Surrey.
Surrey sets out views on commercial trading powers
Surrey County Council leader Dr Andrew Povey has contributed to the national policy debate in a special publication by the national think tank Localis. Dr Povey gave his views on the ways councils can innovatively use trading powers in the current economic climate. He argued that while councils must take the initiative to make better use of trading powers, there are still barriers to financial self-sufficiency that must be removed if they are to capitalise on commercial opportunities. Localis is a leading think-tank dedicated to political issues, especially those relating to innovation and trends in local government. More information is on the Localis
website, while Dr Andrew gives his views on financial freedom for councils in a blog
on the website set up for the Local Government Association's annual conference later this month. Dr Povey emphasised that giving councils the financial freedom they need to take control of their own affairs would represent the ultimate expression of localism. The LGA's conference takes place on 28-30 June.
Parish councils respond to superfast broadband survey
Surrey's rural communities have been responding to the county council's broadband survey to provide the clearest picture yet of current broadband coverage and the likely demand for a superfast network. The council, working with the Surrey Strategic Partnership (which includes other public bodies and the business and voluntary sectors), is committed to ensuring that 100% of the county has access to superfast broadband by the end of 2013. The survey findings reveal a mixed picture across the different parishes covering rural Surrey, although the majority suffer from slow download and upload speeds, particularly problematic for people trying to run a business from home. Many report slower speeds at peak times of the day, such as after school and in the evenings, with an impact on children trying to complete homework.
The benefits of faster broadband that respondents identified included: greater business efficiency, video conferencing and cloud services (where files are stored online rather than on an individual computer or server), online shopping, a smaller carbon footprint and the opportunity to become more computer literate. Nearly all parishes said they thought take-up would be very high. The level of public demand for high-speed broadband will be crucial if the council is to secure any national funding to assist in providing broadband infrastructure in areas not served by the commercial market. Currently up to 20% of Surrey homes and businesses are thought likely to be excluded from superfast broadband in two years' time. You can read the latest county council superfast broadband report here, which explains business case behind the Cabinet's decision to embark on the formal procurement process to find a broadband network provider. The superfast broadband webpage also gives more information together with answers to frequently asked questions. Surrey's superfast broadband team can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Surrey tackles localism in Guardian debate
Surrey County Council continued with its series of live online discussions on the Guardian's
website this week. Head of Policy and Performance Liz Lawrence took part in a question-and-answer session on localism on Wednesday (16 June). She joined a panel that included representatives from the New Local Government Network, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Windsor and Maidenhead Council. The council contributed to two Guardian debates last week focusing on HR issues and recycling.