Surrey County Councillor Jeff Harris — End of Term Report April 2021
As the saying goes, all good things come to an end, and thus, I’m retiring for the fifth time, at the election. This is my final Report to Residents and I will hand over to my successor on May 10th.

I think the last four years have been some of most challenging ever for those of us in Local Government, with continual cuts to budgets, increasing demands more responsibilities devolved to local Councils by Central Government and culminating in the horrendous pandemic. But I believe local Government at all levels has risen to the challenge throughout.

I have been so impressed by the reaction of our residents to the Covid-19 Coronavirus, which of course, is by no means over. But the sheer number of willing volunteers who ‘kept calm and carried on’ was truly amazing, from delivering meals and groceries, running foodbanks, making sure the lonely were contacted, right through to the hundreds who now volunteer at Epsom Racecourse and Walton Pharmacy making sure our collective visits for ‘The Jab’ go smoothly. I’m sure everyone will join me in saying how proud I am of you all – and Thank you.

Talking of thanks......How good are our streets and public spaces looking compared to a year ago? More excellent work by our litter pickers, who are the envy of so many places up and down the country.....So another huge vote of appreciation from me. We all need to remember to ‘bin it’ or ‘take it home’ – especially those poo bags!!

Another group deserving of thanks, and rarely mentioned… Our Residents Associations, who work behind the scenes to represent everyone and ensure your voice is heard in so many ways- They are always looking for new Committee Members, so if you have a few hours a month to spare on behalf of your community- get involved. I’ve attended almost all their meetings across my ‘patch’ and am always impressed by their commitment to residents. If you want to know more - All the details are on the internet.

I know I’ll miss people out, but I must add a huge thanks to our local services, who despite all sorts of challenges, continued to make sure everything from bin collection to roads repairs were carried out. A special mention to Surrey Highways. I know they come in for some stick occasionally, but come Hell or High Water, 24/7/365 days a year, their crews were out dealing with snow, ice, fallen trees, flooding, etc, and rarely get mentioned other than… well, potholes. (150,000 repaired last year!). But there is always more to do, so please remember to report them, on-line is quickest, and you can now see the progress made to deal with each and every one.

I thought I’d just look back and see what I’ve managed to do on your behalf over the last four years, which have flown by.

I’ll start with something dear to my heart and that is the re-introduction of Junior Citizens Events in the Borough, which ‘educate through experience’, well over a thousand children a year, keeping them safe at home out and about and on-line. I managed to convince a large partnership of its value (not hard) and get every single County Councillor in the borough to help me fund it......

I’ve been involved with children’s welfare throughout my four years, as a Member of the Children’s Services Select Committee, and Corporate Parenting Board, which oversees the work to support our 1,000 children in care, in Surrey and spread around the country. We desperately need more Foster Parents, so if you’re interested, you can ring Surrey County Council up anytime or go on line for details.

Amongst other roles I’ve undertaken is a Member of the County Planning Authority and Chairman of the Local Committee, which is a partnership of Reigate and Banstead and Surrey, with responsibility for local Highways Projects, and things like Parking Reviews.

I was asked to become a Deputy Cabinet Members before taking on the Chairmanship of Adult Social Care and Health Select Committee, overseeing a Department that spends over £1.6million… a day!
I have been supporting parents with school related problems and those needing help with Special Educational Needs provisions, plus Home to School Transport Reviews and Appeals.
So - plenty to keep me busy on your behalf – for 1p a year each!

But locally, is where I hope you will have noticed a few successes.

Flood alleviation in Kingswood Road/Ashurst Road in Tadworth, Pebble Close Walton on the Hill, The Green and Ballards Green in Burgh Heath, and finally Chipstead Lane in Lower Kingswood, all of which directly impact on local people and their lives. Bonsor Drive in Kingswood is about to get works done to deal with the flooding there, and ultimately when the Kingswood Station development is completed the area around the Pub will also be dealt with to prevent the flooding we’ve seen.

I hope you noticed that almost the entire length of the footpath alongside A217 on my ‘patch’ has been cleared back, or re-surfaced, making it far safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Mill Road also got the treatment to make it safer along the entire length.

I supported the implementation of Average Speed Cameras on the A217, which have undoubtedly prevented collisions and injuries or deaths. You may be interested to learn that only 0.001% of drivers now contravene the average speed, making residents (and wildlife) safer. I’ve asked for these to be put in along the Dorking Road to stop the racetrack we experience at times, but we’ll have to wait and see.

From the outset of my Term Of Office, the A217 has been a constant ‘thorn’, starting with the Water Company and the completely unacceptable delays in getting their works finished. We ended up inviting the Managing Director down to see for himself. It's fair to say, that after that, things moved far faster, people got a bit of ‘stick’, and the works finished quite quickly. Surrey County Council also negotiated a large sum in compensation. I did ask, in case you are interested....

Then there was the subsidence by the Reigate Road Traffic Lights, which turned out to be a large ‘sink hole’, then another was found, and another- all told 8 were discovered, investigated and filled in, hence the delays. Unfortunately in our are we can expect more to suddenly appear (as they did in Heathcote, Preston Manor Road, and Sandilands Road)

Some of you will not know but I’ve at last managed to get agreement that two of our worst roads, Kingswood Road and Watts Lane in Tadworth will get re-surfaced, after years of asking!

Many people have complained about the speed of vehicles through Tadworth and Walton on the Hill, and I’m really pleased that investigations and research into what can be done is starting soon, and I hope that my recommendation of a 20mph throughout will be accepted an implemented in the very near future..

You may be aware that I have a small pot of money for local groups and projects. I have been able to support many of these with small grants.

We have a very hard-working bunch of volunteers who are planting trees in many of our roads. This time the trees are far more suitable for the road, footpath and services underground. Part of my Community Grant helped to fund their efforts.

On the Preston Estate I’ve been working with and part-funding the MYTI Club which is a Youth Club run by volunteers and just before ‘Lockdown’ was keeping up to 8-0 young people off the streets. A fantastic initiative started by local people and now given permanency by the YMCA who have taken over the Phoenix Youth Centre. With some of my funding, they were able to buy a secondhand minibus.

Additionally with my Community Grant I’ve been able to help Tadworth Cricket Club youth project in purchasing equipment for youngsters, and those who can’t afford bats, balls and clothing, etc. This now now gets up to 80 children playing cricket and getting fit and exercising each Friday.

Hopefully you’ve notice how nice the old ‘Crossroads sign’ at Tadworth Traffic Lights is looking. I felt it was such a shame that our heritage was collapsing, so working with the TWRA, I sponsored the renovation, (almost finished) of a symbol of village life, for generations to come.

Covid-19 stopped it happening this year, but I’ve made funds available to our very own TadFest, (now next year); a local festival of music and entertainment, which will raise money for the Children’s Hospital and local good causes. So keep an eye open for next years diary events.

I mentioned the litter pickers earlier, but they needed equipment-which I initially financed, and then, I’m really pleased to say, the TWRA, Kingswood RA and Burgh Heath RA and Raven Housing, who look after the Preston Estate, all chipped in to make sure our volunteers never run out of equipment again.

My final funding was to purchase a large number of SelectaDNA Kits for people to mark their property. This does cut burglaries and helps reunite owners with their property if they are unfortunate to be burgled. These can be obtained from Surrey Police via the Local Neighbourhood Team in Reigate.

It seems a long time ago I was traipsing the streets and asking for your vote, and I’ve just looked at the ‘promises’ I made back then. I’m pretty pleased with the results, but there is more to do, and I’m sure my successor, whoever it may be, will be able to continue to keep making the difference we all want to experience.

As for my own personal next ‘trick’… I’ll be working as a Trustee for a local Charity to raise their profile, raise some money and make sure it can do ‘what it says on the tin’, so I’m not going anywhere!

I will finish by saying a big thank you to all of you for being part of our community, looking after each other and the support you have given me over the last four years.

My best wishes for the future.

Jeff. Harris
(almost ex) County Councillor.
Tadworth, including Preston, Walton on the Hill and Kingswood including Burgh Heath.
March 2021 Newsletter

This is my final report for residents across my Division - Tadworth, Kingswood, Walton on the Hill Burgh Heath and Preston.

I should start by saying that for all of us this last 12 months have been unforgettable and unique for all the wrong reasons. Coronavirus has impacted on every single one of us in so many ways. As I write, I’ve not seen some of my grandchildren since last summer, and for many it’s been tragic and quite horrendous in terms of personal loss. If you have been affected by loss, please accept my personal condolences.

With the rollout of the vaccines, a new normality will be possible.

On a more positive note, (having had to make £500 million of cuts over the last four years), due to good financial management, this year will see an increase in spending in many areas; Adult Social Care, Children’s Services, including Special Needs (contrary to myths circulating), the Environment, and the one everyone complains about - Highways!

There are dozens of new Highways projects now being undertaken and repairs being conducted. Since January, an average of 500 potholes have been repaired EVERY DAY. Far more to be done, but it’s a start.

Locally, amongst solving many perennial problems, I’ve managed to get the footpaths along the A217 widened and in places re-surfaced. Flooding problems have been addressed in Chipstead Lane, Ballards Green, Kingswood Road/Ashurst Road, and Pebble Close. Bonsor Drive is being done within the next few months, and the area around the traffic lights in Tadworth will get some attention as well. There’s a ‘new’ footpath in Dorking Road by the Grumpy Mole, making accessibility to and from the Hospital better for everyone.

Away from Highways, for a couple of years out Children’s Services have been poor. At long last due to new senior management, some investment and we Councillors ‘chasing, checking and challenging’ the news is very good and we are hoping for a much improved Ofsted Report this summer.

My final piece of good news is that money is now earmarked to reduce the speed limit through Tadworth and Walton on the Hill.

My work is almost done, so I’ll hand over the baton to my successor with just a bit of pride in our villages.

Thank you all for your support and community spirit over the last four years.

Jeff. Harris
January 2021 Newsletter

Who could have possibly guessed what the last 9 months have brought and the position we find ourselves in at the moment.

We enter a New Year with some good news, and as I write this many of our most vulnerable elderly are receiving letters inviting them to attend a Vaccination Centre in the next few days. The plan is to widen the number of recipients and broaden the age group. You don’t need to ask – you will be told when its your ‘turn’.

You will be contacted by letter/text with details of arrangements. (Do remember there are a lot of scams going on and you will NEVER be asked for money, etc for the Vaccine!)

However, I’ve become aware that due to sickness and ‘Self-Isolation’ issues currently affecting the workforce our Post Office Sorting Office in Tadworth, which serves a great many of our residents, is struggling to cope with the amount of post, and thus some residents have not received any mail over the last week or so, and this is worrying for those waiting for Vaccination letters .

Councillor Bob Gardner (Lower Kingswood) and I have already asked questions about this and raised it as a very serious concern. I’m aware that our MP Crispin Blunt got involved with the Post Office, Dept of Health and Social Care and the NHS.

As I write this I’m pleased to say that as a result, hopefully by the weekend all the outstanding letters will have gone out.

But just in case some of our elderly residents haven’t received a letter and remembering the ‘Social-Distancing rules’, can I please ask that if you have family, neighbours or acquaintances in the Over 80 category, you make contact and ask if they’ve had a letter.

Some will have, but not quite understand what action needs to be taken, others won’t have, and from experience locally, are worried they’ve been forgotten. You can help them by going on the NHS Website ‘Booking a Coronavirus vaccination’ with their personal details including their NHS number NOT the National Insurance Number. You can do this for other people.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/

There are also lots of different sections and ‘Frequently Asked questions’ , which hopefully will clear up and concerns.

I won’t go into much more detail here, but for the Councils and other Public Services such as the Police, they are all struggling with absentee rates from 12-20% of staff ill with Covid-19, other illnesses or self-isolating.

This is putting them under tremendous pressure as it’s a busy time of year anyway, so please be patient if you have any dealings with them, and remember they are having to prioritise services, so the operations are completely different to ‘normal’.

That said, there is a lot more information on the Surrey County Council Website: https://www.surrey.gov.uk

I’ve been asked specifically about the Community Re-cycling Centres and if they are open, etc.

The answer at the moment, providing you book beforehand, and all the information you may need is below, including ‘Booking a Slot’

https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/waste-and-recycling/community-recycling-centres/epsom/booking-faqs

On the subject of rubbish, and litter, I’m very pleased to acknowledge the efforts of the Tadworth, Kingswood, Walton and Burgh Heath Litter Pickers who since August last year in our area have picked up a staggering almost EIGHT HUNDRED sacks of litter along our roads and lanes. A truly amazing effort from a group of volunteers whose ages range from 5-85! So well done them. Obviously if you would like to join them and keep our beautiful countryside looking so litter-free, let me know and I’ll put you in touch.

Sadly, almost all they pick up can’t be re-cycled, as its contaminated with all sorts of ‘other rubbish’. Included in that is a large number of ‘Poo Bags’ containing dog waste and just thrown in the grass or worse still hung on trees and bushes-quite disgusting really, and presumably done by people who call themselves ‘Responsible dog owners’, including it must be said, some of our own residents!

We are incredibly lucky to be surrounded by beautiful countryside and to ensure it stays that way can we all spread the word – TAKE HOME YOUR LITTER…!

At this time of year all public Authorities are looking very carefully at their Finances, particularly County Councils. Surrey County Council have cut over £500,000,000 from their budget over the last few years and the cuts, unpalatable as they were, are beginning to pay off. I am confident that unlike many Councils, we will be able to ‘balance the books’, albeit it with a small increase in the Precept to cover inflation and the increasing cost of Adult Social Care. This is quite a positive message, given all the current challenges we face. But more will be available to share in the next few weeks, as the final Budget will be announced early next month. You will probably appreciate the income from things like Business Rates is substantially down, so its quite a challenge just to manage that loss of income. More of that later

I’ll also publish a list of what I personally have spent your money on locally and what projects and Highways have been completed this year..

Finally, its tough going for all of us at the moment, very frustrating at times, but all being well it will be over at some time soon and life becomes whatever ‘normal’ is….So I’d add a fourth line to the Hands, Face and Space………………….and that’s ‘Patience’…

There is a tiny but growing ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, but when I hear that the Vaccine Programme will end it all ‘within months’ and it will al be over, the reality is likely to be different, for one thing the economy and jobs will take some time to recover.

I’m reminded of one of Churchill's speeches in 1942: ‘This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But, it is perhaps, the end of the beginning’.

I wish every one of you and your families a safe, secure, healthy and happy New year.

Best wishes,

Jeff