COVID-19 Local Support from Surrey County Councillor Jeff Harris
11 July

As we progress with the Pandemic and the ongoing implications for all of us, I have now re-started my regular reports and will, as appropriate, also publish other information that’s relevant to local communities.

Coronavirus – CPR – Common-sense, Patience and being Reasonable are the key words going forwards. Keep washing hands, keep your distance and keep your temper! We can all get frustrated, but it gets us nowhere. Remember - Most of the services you are dealing with have been working flat out for months, in addition to their ‘day jobs’ Don’t forget - If anyone needs help, guidance and non-medical support, please don’t forget the helplines: things medical 111 or your local GP. 119 is the number to dial

Money worries: I keep hearing that many people locally are struggling financially-even though few admit it, especially small businesses, even as the country moves to ‘normality’ – whatever that may be…. If you know someone who is under financial pressures, there are a number of agencies who can help-confidentially, these include:
Money Advice Service- 0800 138 7777 (Mon-Fri 8am-6pm)
National Debline-0808 808 4000 (Mon-Fri 9am-8pm)
Stepchange Debt Charity-0800 138 1111 (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm)

Grass-cutting and general tidiness of our communities : I’m receiving many complaints and questions locally, although this is the responsibility of Reigate and Banstead BC, on behalf of Surrey County Council. The current situation is that some grass-cutting has resumed and hopefully ‘normal’ service will resume as soon as possible. I notice that many people are keeping their own streets and verges tidy and neatly cut. This means most of our area still looks very good-thank you all!

We still need people to ensure their hedges are cut to make it safer for disabled and visually impaired residents, if yours is pavement-side, keep it trimmed…..please!

You may not know but there is a new initiative from Surrey Highways in answer to many residents asking ‘How can I help?’
The website: www.surreycc.gov.uk/roads-and-transport/roadworks-and-maintenance/community-highways-volunteering gives details of what can be done, how and by whom, and the e-mail address for more details and to offer help is: Highways.Volunteering@surreycc.gov.uk

We have some beautiful areas in our villages and around and if you and neighbours/friends/family want to do more then this is an excellent opportunity.

Just so you know: We have 145 miles of footpaths in Reigate and Banstead alone which Surrey County Council is responsible for, and obviously can’t manage all of it all the time…..There is plenty to go round! Feel free to offer…..

Fly-tipping and litter: Still getting a lot of complaints about this, so please report fly-tipping to Reigate and Banstead Council. The on-line process is: www.reigate-banstead.gov.uk/info/20093/community_safety/507/report_things_to_our_joint_enforcement_team or via 01737276000 AND Please check for Licences of anyone removing waste or rubbish from your homes and businesses. It’s tempting to go ‘cash-no questions asked’…..But could cost you £50,000!

Fidelity, Lower Kingswood: The RBBC Planning Committee Supported the Application for the new Car Park and subsequent huge increase in vehicles accessing the site, despite quite vociferous challenge by local Councillors. I’m sure everyone will keep a close eye on how this develops.

Hyenas: I make no apology for repeating this, as we’ve seen more elderly people conned in Surrey and around recently, and although we can now see ‘a light at the end of a long tunnel’ and those shielded are able to have slightly more contact, there are still challenges for our vulnerable residents, and not just the elderly.

You will all have heard about ‘Test and Trace’ – (You can get more advice from the new number – 119 ), which is hoped to reduce the transmission rates of Covid-19, and protect people. I’ve previously warned of the con-artists and scammers preying on the elderly and vulnerable. Below is the official guidance from NHS England -
Stacks Image 9847
Can I ask everyone to read this, discuss it with vulnerable family members and neighbours, and explain what it means, and maybe copy it and place it next to their phone/Computer? There are already criminals exploiting the process, by changing very slightly, the web address, phone numbers… Just one tip – if any web address doesn’t have ‘https://’ at the beginning be very wary, and never divulge personal details of any kind, and unless you are absolutely sure of it….put it in the ‘bin’, where it belongs…
If you/they receive a phone call, and you have any doubts whatsoever about the authenticity, do not divulge any personal information, and hang up.
And please TELL someone about it! …. A relative, friend, who can re-assure them and contact the Police and/or forward the e-mail to report@phishing.gov.uk

And finally ……
You may not be aware but I’m a Director (unpaid, if you need to ask!) of a Surrey County Council wholly-owned company called Hendeca Group. We offer organisations support including I.T management and support, Fire Prevention and firefighting, and are just taking on the Highways Laboratory which researches roads and surfaces, etc.
We are looking to grow and generate more profit for the County Council-we average over £500,000 a year, which goes directly to support services-and we are looking for two new Directors to support me and the other senior manager Director.
One will be an Operations Director, who needs to be innovative and forward-thinking and the salary will match the right person. The other is a Non-Executive Director, part-time, but a salary reflecting the role. I know times are hard and there may be some of our residents who may find these roles interesting, so feel free to find out more and apply…..
To apply for this role, please click the link - http://execroles.penna.com/

For further information or confidential discussion, please contact Roger Russell on 07710 701570 / roger.russell@penna.com. or Claudia Sousa on 07763 580368/ claudia.sousa@penna.com

I will finish there and wish you all good health and thank you so much to all those doing so much for our community!

Jeff. Harris

24 June

The Beginning of the end? It appears that for some life will return to some form of normality within the next couple of weeks. What that ‘normality’ means could well be very personal to each and everyone of us.

Lets all be clear that Covid-19 has not finished with us yet in any way. The vast majority of us, so far, have not contracted the disease, and we should all be grateful for that. Unfortunately far too many are still being selfish and ignoring perfectly good advice about self-isolation and social-distancing, not to mention the 20 second hand-washing regime. A gentle reminded to family, relatives and work colleagues, perhaps?

Sadly, thousands have died, with many more permanently affected by the after effects. Families are grief-stricken, bereaved or coming to terms with the fact they’ve not been able to touch a loved one for months…..and that is only part of the cost.

Helplines: I have previously circulated the details of the help lines-which are still there – Surrey County Council is 0300 200 1008 and Reigate and Banstead is 01737 276 000. Please don’t be afraid or embarrassed to call and ask for help- there won’t be too many questions left that they haven’t an answer for, so call.

Knock next door neighbour: Likewise a large number (44,000 in the County) have been ‘shielded’ and almost like coming out of hibernation, there are large changes and challenges for these vulnerable people. So again, although times are changing, please just ‘knock next door’ and make sure they are ok, especially as temperatures rise in the coming weeks. Remember we are all someone’s neighbour!

Changing Services: As circumstances improve so will the additional support services from the Councils reduce and staff who have been re-deployed to support roles return to their normal roles. Please watch out for further information, which, as local Councillors and I receive it we will publish the details. (Of course, and you’ve seen, that includes the Green Waste collections, and hopefully you noticed the grass-cutting along the verges has resumed in some places. It is getting very messy in places, but things will improve).

The official H.M Government guidance is changing, even as I write this, and in some cases open to interpretation, so please keep up to date, but for what its worth, my advice is always err on the side of caution, if not for your own sake, the sake of family, friends and people you know, who are still vulnerable.

Covid-19 Scams: I’ve heard of more scams, so please make sure you/family and vulnerable neighbours are aware that the NHS are not charging for services, will never ask for personal data or bank details, however believable and charming the person on the phone may sound. Just hang up! Likewise scam e-mails are circulating….bin them!

Highways works: Away from Coronavirus, much is still being done to maintain and improve our surroundings. More locally, I’m pleased to report that the section of dangerous footpath alongside the A217 from Wood Lane to Cannons Lane has been cleared and cleaned, making it safer for everyone to access the Lane and adjoining countryside. Unfortunately, my hopes of clearing the entire stretch up to Tadworth roundabout are probably not achievable, simply because of the cost. In addition to any labour and materials, etc, we have to include the cost of traffic management, whilst a lane is closed off for obvious safety reasons- but we’ll see how far we can stretch the remaining money. I’ve included a photo, above, of some of the completed works so you can see the difference.

Hedges have bee causing complaints, especially those overgrowing the footpaths, making it difficult or almost impossible for visually impaired or wheelchair users or those pushing prams, etc. I appreciate its still bird-nesting season, but if you have a protruding hedge, the County Council can come along and cut it back and charge you for doing so.

BBQ’s and bonfires – A plea on behalf of neighbours and the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service. Don’t take disposable BBQ’s onto the heaths and commons. Despite the recent wet weather they are quite dry and flammable, likewise garden bonfires, they can be a nuisance, get out of control and of course there should be no real reason for burning things in our gardens, especially as the Re-cycling Centres are almost all fully open.

Finally, I’ve heard nothing about the Planning Application by Fidelity UK, which will affect hundreds of people in Lower Kingswood, as its now gone to an independent group to re-assess the Travel Plan decimated at the last Planning Committee Meeting. As and when I hear anything, I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, please accept my personal thanks to all of you who have been working so hard to support our vulnerable residents, and wish you all a healthy and safe time ahead.

Best wishes,

Jeff.

1 June

As we progress with the Pandemic and the ongoing implications for all of us, I have now re-started my regular reports and will, as appropriate, also publish other information that’s relevant to local communities.

Coronavirus – Most people will see the daily updates via national media, but the emphasis must still be on social-distancing, hand-washing, the 2 metres rule. And, to be frank, using Common-sense, Patience and being Reasonable (CPR) when it comes how we deal with the Pandemic going forward, if we are to avoid a second ‘spike’. Sadly, many people are just ignoring those three words and doing as they please.

If anyone needs help, guidance and non-medical support, please don’t forget the helplines:
Surrey County Council 0300.200.1008 Reigate and Banstead BC: 01737.276.000 and for all things medical 111 or your local GP.

Money worries: Many people-even though few admit it-are struggling financially, especially small businesses. Councils do have access to grants and other money to support our local businesses, so if you have financial worries, call them. For individuals, the helplines can point you in the right direction-you do not have to be alone trying to deal with it all.

Re-cycling: By the time most people read this the Surrey County Council Community Re-Cycling Centres at Earlswood and Epsom will have re-opened. The times have changed slightly and for the moment large ‘White goods’ are not being accepted (No storage), and visits to the CRC’s are being carefully managed for everyone’s safety.

Brown Bins and Grass-Cutting: Although this is the responsibility of Reigate and Banstead BC, I thought I would mention it as I’m receiving a lot of complaints and questions. The current situation as I write is the Green Waste Collection Service could resume next month. The grass-cutting may well follow, but as soon as I have any details, I will let residents know. In the meantime Cllrs Rachel Turner and Rod Ashford (R&BBC) are trying to find out what the plan is….When we know, of course, residents will.

Fidelity, Lower Kingswood: We are still awaiting the next stage in the process, as the Planning Committee rightly deferred the Application that would have trebled the number of cars accessing the site. They stipulated that, just as the four local councillors asked for, a completely independent review of the ‘Travel Plan’, which was torn to shreds in our submissions….We’ll wait and see. In the meantime, I’ve been asked to circulate the local petition suggesting a new road, from the site to the A217 – here it is… http://chng.it/SR6mxnsS

Hyenas: Although we can now see ‘a light at the end of a long tunnel’ and those shielded are able to have slightly more contact, we have another challenge for our vulnerable residents, and not just the elderly.

You will all have heard about ‘Test and Trace’ – which is hoped to reduce the transmission rates of Covid-19, and protect people. I’ve previously warned of the con-artists and scammers preying on the unwary and vulnerable. Below is the official guidance from NHS England
Stacks Image 9835
Can I ask everyone to read this, discuss it with vulnerable family members and neighbours, and explain what it means, and maybe copy it and place it next to their phone/Computer? There are already criminals exploiting the process, by changing very slightly, the web address, phone numbers… Just one tip – if any web address doesn’t have ‘https://’ at the beginning be very wary, and never divulge personal details of any kind, and unless you are absolutely sure of it….put it in the ‘bin’, where it belongs….
If you/they receive a phone call, and you have any doubts whatsoever about the authenticity, do not divulge any personal information, and hang up.

And finally, TELL someone about it! …. A relative, friend, who can re-assure them and contact the Police and/or forward the e-mail to report@phishing.gov.uk

I wish you all good health and thank you to all those doing so much for our community.

22 May

I refrained from writing over the past week or so as there wasn’t too much to say, but like buses, several things came along at the same time..

Some of the following relates directly to coronavirus, but I thought I’d add a couple of (what I think are) interesting facts and updates.

To avoid confusion:

The new Stay Alert message was announced and although little has changed, this is summed up by six key things which aim to help control the virus. This means you must:

1. Stay at home as much as possible
2. Work from home if you can
3. Limit contact with other people
4. Keep your distance if you go out (two metres apart where possible)
5. Wash your hands regularly - remember TWENTY SECONDS!
6. And if you or anyone in your home has symptoms then don't leave the house.

*Remember medical advice 111, non-medical: Surrey County Council 0300 200 1008 or Reigate and Banstead BC 01737 276 000

Green Waste: Although the service is still suspended, it may resume, I’m told in July, depending on circumstances. But the Re-cycling Centre at Earlswood and Epsom are both open, currently seven days a week but only for garden waste and non-recyclable black bagged waste. Anything else will be turned away as the Operators have nowhere to send items for re-cycling, such as fridges, etc, until the re-cycling companies ‘chain’ re-opens.

As a matter of interest just in the last TWO weeks over 3,500 tonnes of additional waste has been collected by local ‘Binmen’ (and women), across the county. Almost THREE tonnes extra a day in Reigate and Banstead.

Many, but not, all public carparks are open, please check before travelling, and if they’re full, or still closed (Epsom Downs is still closed at the time of writing!) BUT – They are getting crowded, so please don’t cause obstruction by parking stupidly-go somewhere else…

Care Homes and PPE: Sadly, we are seeing a lot in the media about the growing number of deaths in Care Homes and the figures for Surrey are amongst the highest in the country. But we also have probably the highest number of ‘Care Beds’ in the country – 13,500, with about 90% of those being privately run, with Reigate and Banstead having disproportionately more than all the other areas. Each death is a person and tragic, but hopefully these numbers put it into perspective.

The County Council working with NHS, military and voluntary sector have now supplied over SEVEN MILLION items of PPE to Care Homes and other organisations across the county. These are additional to the ones used in hospitals in the County.

Assistance during the Pandemic - Many people and businesses are feeling the financial challenges growing over this period. There are various funds available and both Reigate and Banstead, and Surrey County Councils can give advice, and help in how to apply, for example there’s money for Charities and other Community Social enterprises available via the National Lottery website.

However for individuals facing enormous financial stress, whether its family, friends, neighbours, or us personally, again there is help, guidance and assistance out there-please encourage people, however proud they are, to just ask. Banks, Building Societies, Insurance Companies, Councils, Social Landlords etc have all agreed to do what they can…..So don’t be too proud to ask. If in doubt call one of the helplines above.

Business as Usual - Life in Lockdown continues for Councils and Surrey is managing quite well despite hundreds of staff seconded elsewhere to help everyone get through. You’ll recall that I sit on the Corporate Parenting Board which governs how we look after children in council care- almost 1,000 of them spread far and wide across the country. Many have special needs and the work of Foster Carers and Social workers has been far more demanding during this period, trying to manage these children’s needs, isolation, social-distancing, hygiene, etc, on top of their routine obligations. They are really an amazing bunch of people and often forgotten. By the way, if you’ve ever thought about fostering, give me a call and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Average Speed Cameras along the A217 - It’s just on two years since I supported the introduction of AVC’s on the A217. I’m often asked ‘Do they work?’ and ‘How many get caught?… Well the answer is YES they do, without doubt. Accidents have dropped significantly, and every stretch from the County Boundary to the M25 has seen a drop in speeds, in places by an average 9-10mph. They certainly work for the overwhelming majority of drivers. As for how many get caught (Quiz night question?) About 16-20,000 vehicles a day use the A217 and only TEN a day (on average) get ‘caught’ going fast enough to warrant proceedings.

And finally – Residents will be aware that Fidelity International, based in Lower Kingswood, had a Planning Application before Reigate and Banstead Planning Committee. this week. If granted it would have meant almost a trebling of vehicles in and out of their campus via Smithy and Chipstead Lanes (that’s up to4,500 a day!). Totally unacceptable to residents, and the four Councillors representing them. Working with Cllrs Bob Gardner,(County) Rod Ashford and Rachel Turner (Borough), we challenged the planning advice from the County Council and Borough Council-(not a popular move with some). Both the local Planners and County Highways Development Planners, were supportive of the Application. After extensive research and argument, we were able to convince the Committee that the Travel Plan supporting the Application was ’disingenuous, erroneous, and misleading’ amongst other things, and therefore the Application should not proceed. We recommended a completely independent review of the Travel Plan.

The Committee agreed with us overwhelmingly. At this stage, I’m not sure what the next moves are for either Council or the Company, but rest assured all four of us are ’on the case’….

To come - Next month will see an entirely new way (and far better in my honest opinion) way of reporting Highways issues, seeing progress and looking at plans, but more of that later.

In the meantime, please remember Stay Safe-Stay Home ,unless there’s no choice, and look after your neighbours, because of course we are all someone else’s neighbour.

With my best wishes and grateful thanks,

Jeff.



5 May

I thought I would give everyone a quick update relating to Community Re-cycling Centres (CRC’s)and an announcement from Reigate and Banstead Borough Council about Green Waste Collections.

Firstly, for those who use them the Surrey County Council CRC’s will open next Monday 11th – ……..BUT

It will be phased, so at the start the re-cycling will be limited to:

Green Waste and Black bagged ‘Residual waste’…(Household waste that can’t be re-cycled).

We need to ensure we don’t adversely affect kerbside collections-which you will remember re-cycling rates are up over 25% on average across the County. (Which is great for re-cycling, but adds enormously to the burden of collections).

The other re-cycling materials we’d normally take can’t be accepted currently at our CRC’s because we’ve currently nowhere for them to go onwards from our CRC’s. For example, many of the textile and ‘White goods’ re-cycling companies are closed.

Strict Social distancing must take place to ensure everyone stays safe, and that means just one occupant leaving each vehicle at a time, and a ‘one in-one out’ policy, that I think everyone is getting used to….

People who turn up with other waste will be turned away.

To protect staff and visitors, there won’t be any ‘help’ available

There will be a Traffic Management system to ensure local residents, businesses and emergency vehicles are not adversely affected.

No vans or trailers at first.

Both Epsom and Earlswood will be open SEVEN days a week, and from 9am – 6pm, initially.

This phased re-opening in in answer to resident requests and will be reviewed site by site depending on how the processes are working.

It needs cooperation, patience and reasonableness (CPR) from everyone, as we do not want a repetition of what happened last time, with impatient and abusive people being offensive to our staff on site.

But, I’m sure you will agree - A small light at the end of the tunnel!

I’m aware that Reigate and Banstead Borough Council have announced a £20 compensation for the temporary loss of the Green Waste Collection. This will be credited to accounts and taken off the next years subscription. But, please remember, bonfires are affecting a lot of people with breathing difficulties and I’ve heard the smoke from some are drifting into stables, etc………so bin the bonfires, please.

If you have green waste and want to re-cycle it before the collections re-start, why no consider sharing a carload with a neighbour (each side and remember the 2metre rule!).

Many people will not have driven their cars for a few weeks, and may need reminding if they are going to use the Re-cycling Centres, just give the car a quick check before setting off. It’s not only embarrassing, but could be dangerous to break down when one should have noticed something was wrong before driving off……..

I’m still hearing of a lot of scams and we are all receiving ‘phishing’ e-mails on a regular basis, many specific to Covid-19.

If you receive such an e-mail, you’re not sure of, you can now forward it to report@phishing.gov.uk which is now investigating THOUSANDS of bogus companies, websites, etc, and closing them down on-line. If in doubt,
Don’t open it, and certainly don’t open any attachments.
Don’t forget to put it into your ‘Junk’ folder-your computer should remember it if they try again.
Don’t forget to change your passwords on a regular basis, and if you think you’ve been scammed,
Don’t be afraid to ask for help-there’s loads out there, but victims tend to be too embarrassed to tell anyone……

The Community Helpline on 0300 200 1008 – to assist with non-medical questions, requests for help, advice, etc is open and taking hundreds of calls each day. If you, a relative, or a neighbour need any advice-just call.

Open Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday: 10am to 2pm. Bank Holiday Friday 8 May: 10am - 4pm.

Finally, remember the 20 20 rule:

20 seconds handwashing
2metres apart
0 excuses.

Protect the NHS - Protect ourselves.

With my very best wishes,

Jeff.