Council sets budget for 2021/22

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council set its budget for 2021/22 yesterday evening (Tuesday 16 February) at a Full Council meeting.

In setting the budget, councillors have agreed a 2.43% increase to council tax (borough council portion) – this is the equivalent of 9.5p per week for the average band D property and the council tax for this borough remains below the average for Surrey. 

The percentage of the overall council tax being paid this year by residents of Epsom and Ewell to the Borough Council will be 10%, Surrey Police will receive 14% and 76% will fund Surrey County Council activities.

The budget was set in the climate of ongoing increased expenditure as the council addresses the pandemic within the borough, including a significant rise in emergency temporary accommodation. The council has also seen a large decrease in commercial income (eg from parking and income from rents) due to COVID-19.

Speaking at the Budget Meeting Councillor Eber Kington, Chairman of the Strategy & Resources Committee said he recognised the challenges faced by so many residents including “the lockdowns, the absence of physical contact with family and friends, the worries over employment, being furloughed, the closure of schools and the challenges of home schooling, and the toll on the mental health of so many”.

He added that “Using the ideas in the Councils Future 40 vision which were shaped by residents themselves, we will further develop our recovery plan, for the Council and the Borough as whole, to Build Back Better so that, collectively and individually, we will be stronger and even better than before”

Referencing the new council tax rate, which for the lowest council tax band will be just 6 pence extra a week, Councillor Kington said that:  “We are asking all our residents pay a few pence extra each week so that we can come through the pandemic in a stronger position whilst collectively protecting the very important services that support the most vulnerable members of our community”

Councillor Kington also said he was “Very pleased that, as in previous years, there are no cuts to the services provided by the Borough Council”.

This budget key facts:

Council tax for the borough to remain one of the lowest in Surrey

Council tax increase just 10p per week

Residents on the lowest council tax band will pay just 6p extra a week

Ongoing investment in the borough’s future to continues

The budget sees a rise in the Epsom & Ewell Borough Council proportion of council tax of £4.95 per annum or 2.43% (for band d property).

For full details of the budget CLICK HERE

 

 

Epsom Rotary Club Helps Another Local Charity

Have you heard of the local charity “The Meeting Room”? It’s an organisation that runs daytime drop-in centres for homeless, socially isolated and vulnerable people living within our local community. Epsom Rotary Club is proud to support the Meeting Room.

Did you know that every year around Christmas the Ashley Centre security staff on behalf of Epsom Rotary Club put a large collection box in the centre for donations of food items. We then collect and deliver the donated items to The Meeting Room.

In this extraordinary year Epsom Rotary Club members have also donated wrapped Christmas presents for The Meeting Room to distribute to individuals and families that they support. It is also worth mentioning that many others have also generously made donations

The drop-in centres provide a warm, safe and friendly environment where people are made to feel welcome and can eat, relax and socialise. A hot nourishing mid-day meal sustains the body, while talking, playing games and other activities help to break through isolation.

Important as the Daily Centres are, The Meeting Room also offers other vital support including:

  • Accompanying clients to appointments where they need someone to speak up for them. This may be an assessment, medical appointment, social workers or legal meetings.
  • Assistance to prevent homelessness, such as helping negotiate debt, helping with maintaining their property and negotiating with housing associations where there has been a problem.
  • Help with paperwork or online forms. Many clients are not fully literate or unable to use computers, so we help them complete necessary paperwork.
  • Running regular self improvement courses. We have courses scheduled to cover the following: Mindfulness; Building Confidence and Self Esteem; Managing Finances; Managing Stress and Anxiety.

To find out more about the work of The Meeting follow this link: https://www.themeetingroom.biz/. More about Epsom Rotary Club can be found at: https://epsomrotaryclub.org 

Local Crime Update

Epsom Choral Society Keeps calm and carries on singing!

Amateur choirs,  like many other groups, have struggled enormously during the Covid-19 pandemic. We all had to stop singing and an important part of our lives disappeared.

But Epsom Choral Society, now in its 99th year, was determined to find a way to keep going. For nearly a century we continued to sing through wars and crises, and we were not going to stop now if we could find a way to continue safely. 

During lockdown, when choirs were forbidden to meet in person, we held weekly rehearsals online.  Something of a challenge for many of our members, but despite having to master this new technology, over 70 members of our choir joined in. 

When the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced in September that community choirs could meet again, providing they adhered to government guidelines, that was the green light Epsom Choral Society had been waiting for and we sprang into action. 

We used to rehearse in St Martin’s church hall but, under the new social distancing rules, that wasn’t possible for a choir of our size. Instead St Martin’s offered us the use of the church itself where we usually perform our concerts and which could accommodate all members who wished to return to group singing, suitably distanced. Our members were so happy to have the chance to sing together again. And for those who were too vulnerable or shielding, we streamed all our rehearsals live so that they could still join in at home. Now during the second lockdown we will go back to online rehearsals but hope we can resume rehearsing in December.

And so, through adversity, Epsom’s longest established choir continues to sing.  

Chairman Helen Phillips said: “I can’t tell you how excited we were at the prospect of singing together again. Zooming was invaluable as a way to keep us connected but was like eating dry toast when what you really want is a cream tea. We are so grateful to St Martin’s for helping us get back to the real thing.” 

Now ECS are going one step further. We realised that, as we have the ability to live stream into people’s houses, we can put on a live Christmas concert that our loyal audience can watch from the safety of their own home. So on Saturday 19th December at 5pm we will be live streaming our annual Christmas concert from St Martin’s Church. This concert will be streamed directly from our website (www.epsomchoral.org.uk) and free of charge – although we will be inviting people to make donations to help us keep singing in the future. Singing is good for mental health and we hope that our Christmas concert will bring festive cheer for the Epsom community.

We are extremely grateful to Epsom businesses Artifax Software Ltd who have kindly offered to sponsor us, and also to Grayside Insurance. Both Artifax and Grayside have been long term supporters of ECS and we are very appreciative of their continued support during these difficult times.

Please note:

  1. Epsom Choral Society is in its 99th season and has over 100 singers. In normal times, we put on at least four concerts each year in Epsom, Cheam, London as well as singing each year in a European town. www.epsomchoral.org.uk
  2. Epsom Choral Society is a friendly choir and, once the pandemic is over, look forward to welcoming new members again. They do not audition but do aim for high performance standards.
  3. Rehearsals are on Wednesday evenings, currently in St Martin’s Church, Church Street, Epsom under the artistic direction of conductor, Julian Collings.
  4. Artifax Software provides Venue and Event Management software to arts organisations world wide – and is based in Epsom. www.artifax.net
  5. Grayside Insurance, also Epsom based, provide Financial and Insurance services. www.grayside.co.uk

Surrey Police ready to meet the challenges of second lockdown

Robust plans are in place to ensure that Surrey Police can continue to meet the challenges of further changes to the coronavirus regulations – that was the message from Chief Constable Gavin Stephens following the introduction of the second lockdown last week.

Urging Surrey residents to play their part in preventing the spread of the virus, CC Stephens urged people to stay at home as much as possible to save lives.

Thanking the Surrey public for their high compliance with the restrictions since the first lockdown was imposed on 23 March, he said:

 “We know that this a challenging and unprecedented time for everyone and that the public are doing their best to adapt and follow the rules in place for everyone’s safety. We have seen high levels of compliance in Surrey and I am so grateful to our local communities for this and am confident that this will continue to be the case.

He continued: “Our officers will continue to engage with our local communities using our well-established policing approach of engaging, educating and explaining. However, in exceptional cases, and only as a last resort and where people show a blatant disregard for the rules, we will take enforcement action.”

520 Fixed Penalty Notices have been issued by Surrey Police since the start of the lockdown on 23 March for contravention of lockdown regulations.

A total of six Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were issued over the weekend following the introduction of the second lockdown on 5 November. Three of the FPNs issued related to the same incident after three men were stopped in a van at the Clacket Lane services on Friday evening (6 November).

Although there was not enough evidence to link to them to the reported poaching incident, all three were issued with £200 fines for breaching current covid restrictions.

Of the six tickets given, all were given to people aged 22-35 years and five of them were given to men.

During the first lockdown, Surrey Police saw an increase in reports of certain crimes, including online fraud, domestic abuse and online child exploitation, as well as a rise in the number of mental health incidents being reported.

However, there was a decrease of 37.5% in the number of residential burglaries between 1 April and 8 November compared to the same period last year. Reports of external child exploitation also decreased during the first lockdown.

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Ali Barlow said: “These crime patterns are reflected nationally and we will obviously continue to monitor these trends as we navigate our way through the second lockdown.

“We will continue to work with the county’s fantastic outreach services and helplines to support those who report domestic abuse.

“Similarly, we will work with our partner agencies to tackle online exploitation involving children, particularly as they will inevitably be spending more time on their mobile devices during this period.

“During the first lockdown, children were subject to increased tensions within the family and increased exposure to domestic abuse and abuse of alcohol and drugs. The dynamics are different in the second lockdown because children are still going to school.

“We also believe that child abuse did increase during the first lockdown but that it wasn’t reported and so wasn’t reflected in the crime figures.

“We would urge anyone who suspects a child as being at risk of abuse or online or external exploitation to report it to us straightaway. We do not want children to suffer in silence.

“We will also continue to issue tips and reminders about keeping yourself safe from fraud and to not give out your personal details or banking information as we see a shift in everyone spending more time online.

“Safeguarding our most vulnerable victims will always be a top priority for us and we will continue to work with our partner agencies to ensure that we continue to do so alongside all the other demands which are being placed on us in these unprecedented times.”

More In Detail Look At Trends Since March 2020

FPNs issued

Since 23 March, Surrey Police have issued 520 fixed penalty notices (including the six issued over the weekend). These included contravention of restricted movement during emergency period; contravention of gathering of more than two people in a public place; failing to comply with instructions; participating in a gathering in an indoor space; not wearing a face mask within a relevant place; coming back from a non-exempt country and failing to self-isolate; contravention of self-isolation regulations.

 Crime trends during first lockdown

Domestic abuse

Reported incidents peaked in May at the height of the first lockdown (1,509 domestic abuse offences reported in May 2020 compared to 1,292 incidents reported in May 2019). Outreach services across the county also saw an unprecedented number of calls during the first lockdown period.

Child abuse

  • Since the UK went into lockdown on 23 March 2020, Surrey Police have seen a 12.2% decline in the number of child abuse reports compared to the same time frame in 2019 (103 less reports). This is largely attributed to the reduced opportunity to spot the signs of child abuse within school, nursery and youth clubs settings with them having closed temporarily.

Online child exploitation

  • There was a 19% increase in referrals to their Paedophile Online Investigation Team during the same period, indicating that more child exploitation is happening online as children and perpetrators are spending more time on their devices.

Mental health

•             There were noticeable increases in the number of mental health incidents and s136 detentions in Surrey.

•             These incidents were made more complex because of the pandemic, with a recognised increase in presentation by people not previously known to services.

•             There has been a significant increase in young people being detained under s136 during 2020 (73%) and this uplift begins in April during the Covid-19 pandemic.

•             The increase in demand is not Surrey specific and has been identified as a national issue by the NPCC and College of Policing mental health lead.

Fraud

676 fraud offences were reported between 23 March 2020 and 4 July 2020, which was an increase of 73 offences (12.11%) compared to the same period last year. Action Fraud also reported significant increases in reporting of online fraud during lockdown, particularly in relation to online shopping, advance fee fraud, and cheque, plastic card and online banking.

Cyber crime

During the first lockdown (March to June) there was an increase in reports of cybercrime (166 reports, compared to 136 reports for the same period in 2019.

•             January 2020 – 145

•             February 2020 – 120

•             March 2020 – 133

•             April 2020 – 157

•             May 2020 – 186

•             June 2020 – 189

•             July 2020 – 201

Be Extra Vigilant

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council is urging residents to increase their efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus as public health data shows that the number of positive cases in the borough has significantly risen

Infection rates are rising steeply in Epsom and Ewell and the council is calling on people of all ages to do all they can to restrict the spread of coronavirus.

Data published by the county council shows that, for the week ending 24th October, the Epsom and Ewell rate was 109 cases for every 100,000 people. This is significantly higher than the majority of Surrey.

Councillor Liz Frost, Chair of the Health Liaison Panel and Covid-19 spokesperson, said “The steep rise of cases across the borough is a serious concern.

“No one wants to see any further restrictions brought in locally, but we need to get on top of the increasing infection rates in the borough. Ultimately it will be the Government’s decision on whether further action is required.

“There is no room for complacency, and I would urge residents to continue following the basic advice of hands, face, space and the rule of six. Individual actions can help to stabilise, then reduce, the transmission of the virus and protect the most vulnerable people in our community – it’s in our own hands to keep ourselves and our loved ones, neighbours, staff and customers safe”.

“We continue to work with Surrey County Council, Public Health England and other partners to monitor the case numbers in the borough.”

The council has:

  • Written to businesses across the borough with information and advice to help them ensure that their premises are Covid-19 secure
  • Written to shared homes to provide practical advice

If you have COVID-19 symptoms of high fever, continuous cough and loss of taste or smell, then self-isolate immediately and get tested by calling 119 or visit the NHS website. If you have a positive test or are alerted by a contact tracer, play your part to protect your community by self-isolating; this is now a legal requirement.

Epsom RDA Planning for the Future

Despite the difficult times Epsom RDA is planning for the future. In 2019 the Group received planning permission to build a new indoor school. It had been hoped to start the building of the 25 x 45 indoor school this year, but the arrival of COVID 19 has slowed progress.

Epsom RDA Chair, Ray Lee said: “We were looking forward to getting the building work underway this year. We would have then been able to increase the number of rides we can run and improve the quality of the facilities for our riders and volunteers by the end of the year.”

The Group has had a delay in the building programme as the funding they were so close to securing has been halted as a number of grant making bodies who had expressed interest in the project have suspended their activities. These organisations have had a loss of income as a result of the cancellation of events such as the London Marathon.

However, the Group remains committed to the plans to provide its’ volunteers and riders with a first-class environment, increase the choice of activities riders can take part in, and make the service available to more riders.

Ray continued: “Riding and volunteering brings tremendous physical therapeutic benefit to riders, equally important is the benefit of being involved with horses and being active to the well-being for both riders and volunteers alike. This will be especially important as we start to recover from COVID 19. We are working hard at finding other sources of funding and are hopefully that we will be able to get the first stages of the project underway by the Spring next year.”



About Epsom Riding for the Disabled Association

Epsom Riding for the Disabled Association (Epsom RDA) provides disabled people with the opportunity to ride to benefit their health and well-being.

Epsom RDA provides over 3,000 riding lessons for 350 disabled adults and children.

Epsom RDA is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) Charity Number 1180061) and a member group of the national Riding For The Disabled Association.

Epsom RDA is entirely funded by donations and our own fundraising efforts.

For more information,please contact: Email: [email protected] or visit www.epsomrda.org.uk

Four of Epsom and Ewell’s green spaces have once again won the Green Flag Award!

Four green spaces within Epsom and Ewell have been recognised by the Green Flag Award Scheme as some of the very best in the world.

Epsom Common Local Nature Reserve, Ewell Court Park, Alexandra Recreation Ground and Rosebery Park join other green spaces awarded this recognition throughout the UK. 

A record-breaking 2,000 green spaces across the country have received this international award in a year when millions of people have seen the value of having great quality green spaces on their doorstep.

The four green spaces in Epsom and Ewell that were put forward for judging for the award were selected, as they are broadly representative of the different green spaces within the borough:

  • Epsom Common Local Nature Reserve has won the award for the fourteenth consecutive year. It is the largest local nature reserve in Surrey and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
  • Ewell Court Park has won the award for the ninth year in a row. The park is the former gardens of the historical Ewell Court House.
  • Alexandra Recreation Ground has also won the award for the ninth year in a row. It is a sports ground with facilities for cricket, soccer, bowls, tennis and basketball situated in Alexandra Road, Epsom.
  • Rosebery Park has once again won the award for the eighth year running. It is a formal town centre park in Epsom.

The Green Flag Award scheme, managed by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy under licence from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, recognises and rewards well managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for their management across the United Kingdom and around the world.

Councillor Barry Nash, Chair of Epsom & Ewell Borough Council’s Community & Wellbeing Committee said: “We are absolutely delighted that four of our parks and green spaces have once again won the Green Flag Award, a testimony to the hard work of our staff and also to the input and support from community groups and volunteers.

“We know how much quality green spaces matter to residents and visitors, especially more than ever this year, and this Award celebrates the dedication that goes into maintaining our parks and green spaces to such high standards. Let’s continue to respect our beautiful green spaces by keeping them clean and safe for everyone to enjoy.

“By lighting up a tree in Rosebery Park to mark our Green Flag Award success, we joined buildings and landmarks across the country, going green for parks to celebrate and to say a massive thank you to the parks staff, volunteers and the Green Flag Awards Judges for all their hard work this year.”

Commenting on Epsom and Ewell’s success, Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive, Alison Ogden-Newton OBE said, “This year, more than ever, our parks and green spaces have been a lifeline and we know that millions of people have used them to relax, meet friends, exercise or simply escape for a short time.

“It is a testament to the incredible dedication and hard work of parks staff and volunteers that, despite the challenges that went along with record numbers of visitors, Epsom & Ewell Borough Council’s award winning parks and green spaces have achieved the highest international standards demanded by the Green Flag Award.”

For more information on Epsom and Ewell’s parks and open spaces visit www.epsom-ewell.gov.uk   

The Green Flag Awards Scheme (http://greenflagaward.org/) is run by the environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, under licence from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, in partnership in the UK with Keep Scotland Beautiful, Keep Wales Tidy and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful. The scheme also operates in an additional 14 countries including Portugal, New Zealand and USA.

Keep Britain Tidy is a leading environmental charity. We set the standard for the management of parks and beaches, inspire people to be litter-free, to waste less and to live more. We run programmes including Eco-Schools, the Green Flag Award for parks and green spaces and the Blue Flag/ Seaside Awards for beaches. To find out more about Keep Britain Tidy, our programmes and campaigns visit www.keepbritaintidy.org  

Any green space that is free to enter and accessible to the public is eligible to enter for a Green Flag Award. Awards are given on an annual basis and winners must apply each year to renew their Green Flag Award status. A Green Flag Community Award recognises quality sites managed by voluntary and community groups. Green Heritage Site Accreditation is judged on the treatment of the site’s historic features and the standard of conservation. 

Council secures extra funding to help rough sleepers

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council has taken steps to ensure that rough sleepers continue to be safely accommodated over the winter.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, councils were instructed to provide emergency accommodation to protect rough sleepers and those at risk of rough sleeping under a programme known as ‘Everyone In’.

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council assisted 33 people through the Everyone In programme.   This was provided in decent accommodation to alleviate the greater risk of the spread of the virus in a typical homeless shelter. 

The council has now successfully bid for and received £157k from the Government’s Next Steps Accommodation Programme. The programme helps with the next stage of the Covid-19 rough sleeping response by making sure those rough sleepers assisted will continue to have accommodation while the council seeks to secure longer term accommodation.

Epsom & Ewell is one of 274 councils that will receive a grant from this fund which can only be used to accommodate those already accommodated under Everyone In.

Councillor Barry Nash, Chair of the Epsom & Ewell Borough Council Community and Wellbeing Committee explained “The reasons for sleeping rough are different for each individual and can be complex and include mental health issues and drug and alcohol problems.

“Providing accommodation over the winter will allow us to provide more dedicated support to these individuals and plan a transition to longer term accommodation either in the private rented sector or in supported accommodation”.

The council originally accommodated 33 individuals under ‘Everyone In’ Of these, 24 are still accommodated. The other nine have either found alternative accommodation themselves, the council has moved them to longer-term supported accommodation or they have opted to leave.

RCEM issues urgent warning as hospitals near capacity

Responding to publication of performance data for Emergency Departments in England in September 2020, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson said: 

“We need to be clear about the scale of what we face as we go into winter. If we do not come together and take effective precautions, Covid will continue its explosion across the country; a devastating consequence of which could be the implosion of our NHS this winter.

“While performance is not near its worst, we are seeing extremely worrying signs as we head into winter. Our Emergency Departments must be safe places for our most vulnerable patients, and we cannot go back to the status quo of crowded departments and long waits.  

“However, the data shows that we are gradually returning to this, which will put lives at risk. In Quarter 1 of 2020/21 there were 118,451 beds in the NHS in England. On 1 October 96% of these beds were occupied.” 

Data for September 2020 also shows that:  

  • total beds occupied by confirmed Covid-19 patients has quadrupled over past month 
  • five times as many patients are on ventilators than the previous month 
  • four-hour performance at Emergency Departments is down by 6 percentage points since May 2020 
  • 12-hour waits have nearly quadrupled since May. 

“It is extremely concerning to see Covid continue to spread at an increasing rate throughout the population. This will have serious repercussions for both the NHS and many families. Covid doesn’t just effect those who catch it. Its continued existence has very real and tragic outcomes for others. 

“Emergency Departments frequently see patients who should not need to be there but have to because they’ve had their surgery or treatment postponed and are experiencing complications. 

“While EDs will always be open to those seeking emergency care, if Covid cases continue to rise the NHS may be forced to scale back other routine activity to focus on the fight against it. This may mean that someone you love – your elderly asthmatic grandma, your brother with a heart condition, your two-year-old niece with leukaemia – may not be able to receive the regular treatment they desperately need.  

“To prevent this situation, we need to look to each other, and look after each other, to make sure we all take basic precautions: maintain social distancing, wash your hands regularly, wear a mask. Doing these things could save the life – directly or indirectly – of someone you care about. 

“Life for most of us is hard right now and will continue to be for some time. It is made harder when others seemingly ignore the rules, but the behaviours of others is no excuse not to stick to them. Those rules are intended to save lives and those rules will save lives if we all do our bit. We must look to ourselves to lead. 

“At the start of the pandemic the government asked us to protect the NHS to save lives. It needs to make this message clear again to the public and set out a comprehensive and consistent strategy for the winter. Without this, we fear our Emergency Departments and the NHS will be overwhelmed.”