Report to Residents January 2021: Councillor Jeff Harris

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 Churchills 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 Harris

County Councillor Tadworth, Walton on the Hill, Burgh Heath and Kingswood.

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