End of Term Report to Residents April 2021

Dear All,

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 litterpickers, 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. Its 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 og 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 upto 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 Litterpickers 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.

 

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