Epsom’s flat season springs into action

Epsom racecourse

The Flat racing season gets underway at Epsom on Tuesday with the Spring Meeting – a competitive six-race card to kick off the new campaign at the Surrey track. 

Racing gets underway at 2.10 with a 13-runner handicap before rounding off at 5.05 with another big field handicap, this time with 11 set to head to post. 

The opener (2.10) gets the new season underway and it’s set to be a fast and furious 5f sprint. Last year’s winner of this race, Lihou, is back to defend his crown having returned to the turf after some less than impressive outings on the all-weather over the winter. The chief threat to the reigning champion could come from Glory Hunter, who won in the mud over this distance at Thirsk a fortnight ago. 

Race two on the card (2.40) is the Blue Riband Trial Stakes, seen by many as a trial for the Epsom Derby later this year. Chief Little Rock doesn’t hold a Derby entry but sets the standard in the Trial on Tuesday, having finished second in both the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh and the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket. Arabic Legend is worth keeping an eye on as well, second in a listed race at Salisbury last season before switching to a new yard having disappointed in the Autumn Stakes. 

The third race of the afternoon (3.20) is a class two handicap over the 1m2f trip around Epsom and the preference is for Qitaal, trained by Charlie Johnston, who returned to racing after two years off to score at Doncaster and can defy a 7lb hike in the weights here to make it two wins from his last two runs. 

Race four (3.55) sees 13 runners head to the start for the 1m4f handicap in class three and Sussex trainer Gary Moore sends Champagne Piaff to Epsom – and with a very eye catching jockey booking to boot with one of the world’s best Flat jockeys, Ryan Moore, set to get the ride. He is very much of interest in this one, but could find stern competition from Splendent, who is back at his optimum trip having previously ran over two miles and not found it to his liking. 

The penultimate race on the card (4.30) is a novice stakes over the extended one mile trip and the selection is for the Harry Charlton-trained Midair, second of nine in a Goodwood maiden and subsequently only narrowly beaten at Kempton in the final strides last time out. 

Finally, the Epsom card comes to a close (5.05) with the 1m handicap for three-year-old’s and the preference here is for Mr Baloo, who secured a third career win at Kempton last time out and a winner of a Nursery contest at Epsom back in October last year so track experience could come to the fore. 

Epsom selections – Tuesday (via Punchestown odds)

2.10 – Lihou

2.40 – Chief Little Rock

3.20 – Qitaal

3.55 – Champagne Piaff

4.30 – Midair

5.05 – Mr Baloo

Image: David Jones  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Animal health benefits human health

Pigs in a pen

Ensuring animals are treated well throughout their lives and using sustainable farming practices are at the heart of an ambitious partnership to control the spread of infectious diseases and improve animal welfare. The University of Surrey’s School of Biosciences and School of Veterinary Medicine have joined the European Partnership on Animal Health and Welfare. The University is set to receive over £2 million from the Horizon Europe Research and Innovation Programme.

Along with helping to prevent and control diseases in terrestrial and aquatic animals, the partnership will also encourage the careful use of medicines and develop methods to maintain high welfare standards. The partnership involves 90 members from 24 countries, and the initiative’s total funding is €360 million.

Professor Roberto La Ragione, the Surrey Principal Investigator and Head of the School of Biosciences at the University of Surrey, said:

“With the rising numbers of diseases in animals that are spreading to humans, the scientific community is waking up to the fact that animal health and welfare are inextricably linked to our own.

“I’m proud that our University is joining colleagues from across the country and Europe, so that we can not only share and tackle these issues at a large scale, but also find sustainable solutions that improve the wellbeing of the animals that we share this planet with.”

The European Partnership on Animal Health and Welfare aims to support a food system that is fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly. Its goals align with the European Green Deal and the related Farm to Fork strategy, which focuses on sustainable food production.

Professor Kamalan Jeevaratnam, Head of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Surrey, said:

“Our University has a long-standing commitment to the One Health, One Medicine ethos, and we are excited to share our expertise and learn from our partners. This collaboration underscores the UK’s significant role in advancing the wellbeing of humans, animals, and our natural environment for a better future.”

Nathalie Vanderheijden of the University of Ghent, coordinator of the EUP AH&W, sums up the partnership as follows:

“Our partnership is a new, open initiative, bringing together EC funding, national/regional funders and research-performing organisations to concentrate efforts on developments with high societal, economic and policy impact. Belgium, with its current presidency of the European Council for six months, appreciates the potential of unity in driving change!”

Speaking of the Partnership EFSA’s, Chief Scientist Carlos Das Neves said:

“We are pleased to announce that EFSA will be a full partner of the European Partnership Animal Health & Welfare. This is the first time that we will be a beneficiary in a research partnership under Horizon Europe, which will enable a smoother transition from research to regulatory science. We are prepared and committed to bring our expertise to the table, together with the best experts in Europe, for the benefit of animal health and welfare.”

The European Partnership on Animal Health and Welfare started on the 1st of January 2024 and held its kick-off meeting on the 26th and 27th of February 2024 in Brussels. All partners signed the Grant Agreement on the 29th of March 2024.

Image: Marie Anna Lee 

Epsom and Ewell braces for M25 closure traffic

M25 diversion route

Greater chaos has been avoided by the Epsom and Ewell Times correcting the Highway Authority‘s belief you could turn off the northbound A3 to go south at the Hook Junction. “Thank you for your email of 19 April 2024 in relation to the M25 junction 10/A3 Wisley interchange improvement project and specifically regarding the error in the M25 weekend closure diversion route published on our webpage. I’d like to apologise for this error and to also thank you for bringing it to our attention. This has now been corrected….” wrote Chris Davis, the Project Support Officer.

The Highways Authority has announced the closure of a section of the M25 motorway between junctions 9 (A243 Leatherhead) and 10 (A3 Wisley) from 9pm Friday, May 10, to 6am Monday, May 13, 2024. This closure is necessary for the installation of a new bridge.

Travellers are advised to avoid unnecessary journeys during this period, with the authority expressing gratitude to drivers who complied with similar closures in the past. A 19-mile diversion route has been planned, utilizing the A3 and the A240. Drivers are urged to follow this diversion and not rely on their SatNav systems.

For clockwise diversion, except for over-height vehicles, drivers are advised to leave the M25 at junction 8 onto the A217 (Reigate), then follow signs for London, Sutton, and Kingston on the A217 and A240. At the Esso roundabout, they should turn right onto the A24 (A240) towards Kingston, then left onto the A3 towards Portsmouth and Guildford. After 9½ miles, they can rejoin the M25 at junction 10.

Fortunately, the works at the Tolworth roundabout have all but completed for traffic. The northbound A240 has four lanes to filter at the junction approach.

For anticlockwise diversion, except for over-height vehicles, drivers should leave the M25 at junction 10 and join the A3 towards London. After 9½ miles, they should turn right onto the A240 towards Epsom and Reigate, then follow signs for Reigate and the M25 on the A240 and A217. After 3½ miles, they can rejoin the M25 at junction 8.

Drivers using the signed diversion route will not incur any Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charges that may usually apply in London. However, over-height vehicles must follow a different diversion route to avoid a low bridge.

The Highways Authority also announced plans for three more weekend closures of the M25 this year, with no closures scheduled for June. The remaining closures will occur between July and the end of 2024, with dates to be announced following the May closure.

Plan your local Epsom and Ewell lunch dates with relatives accordingly…

Related reports:

M25 diversion cost me £12.50 ULEZ charge

Going South this weekend?

Epsom and Ewell FC escaping relegation zone?

Epsom & Ewell FC 2-1 Abbey Rangers. Combined Counties League – Premier Division. Saturday 20th April 2024.

A 2-1 victory over Abbey Rangers marked the end of our brief tenure at the Reg Madgwick Stadium on Saturday and at the same time gained a measure of revenge over our opponents after we lost by the same scoreline over there in November. This win also ended any mathematical hopes they had of reaching the playoffs.

After our superb win over Fleet Town on Tuesday, I felt that this match was a bit of a “freebie” as a Salts win over Guildford City in our final match would have guaranteed safety anyway. However, this result means that we now only require a draw to confirm our survival, and by the time we take the field at the Spectrum next week, it’s even possible that other results may have assured our safety. Indeed, had Sheerwater not secured a last minute winner over Cobham this same afternoon, we would be celebrating already!

Maybe unsurprisingly we made only the one change to our line up with Carl Oblitey coming in for the absent Nick Wilson and we stuck with the recent formation of playing three at the back, which was a brave policy playing against a solid and physical Abbey team, but by and large it worked.

Chances were few and far between in the opening exchanges. Jaevon Dyer shot at goal from 20 yards, but it was a fairly easy save for Sam Grey in the Abbey goal. At the other end Dan O’Donovan had one excursion out of his area to clear a break, but we were soon back on the attack and a great pass from Ethan Nelson-Roberts set Will Kendall down the left, although his first time low cross was just out of reach of the incoming Oblitey.

Our opponents probably had more of the ball than we did in the opening half, but we looked solid at the back as they rarely threatened, apart from a decent move on the left that ended with a strike at goal from George Frith that was headed away from goal by Reece Tierney. You could tell from Frith’s reaction that he knew the shot was on target, yet within a minute we were the team celebrating after a pass came in from the left towards Oblitey, but before he had a chance to control it, a defender knocked it away, but only into the path of Will Kendall, and although he was at quite an acute angle on our left, his powerful shot from 12 yards went across Grey and into the net off the far post to give us a 36th minute lead.

In response O’Donovan was alert to punch a delivery clear, while at the other end Kendall fell in the penalty area after a coming together between him and Dale Burnham, but nothing was given, which I think was the right call. Then in injury time a break on the right wing resulted in the ball being swept across goal, but fortunately Ross Murdoch, who had scored a hat trick at Camberley a week previously, skied the chance from a good position. Moments later we had a rather generous free kick on the edge of the area, but Adam Green hit the delivery into the defensive wall. We went in at the break a goal ahead.

It was hard to say that we really deserved to be ahead at the break, but we were certainly as dangerous as our playoff chasing opponents and we fashioned a few chances during the second half too. Oblitey saw his long strike deflected, which took all the power off it, while next to try his luck was Green with a free kick from thirty yards after Luke Taylor was fouled, but the shot went just over the bar. Burnham became the second Abbey player in the book for the foul, joining his team mate, former Salt Daryl Cooper-Smith in the first half, but in the 55th minute Dyer collected the ball out on the left and then sent in a superb strike towards the top corner, only for Grey to produce a stunning save to keep his side in the match.

His reward for this great save was precisely nothing as we extended our lead six minutes later when a delivery in from the left was headed out by a defender under pressure from Kendall only for it to fall to Miller, who cut onto his left foot and thumped the ball into the top corner with his so called weaker left foot from 18 yards. It was a goal deserving of winning any match and at 2-0 it certainly looked as though we would be picking up another three points here. However, we received a reminder of our situation just three minutes later when a ball in over our defence was collected and finished past O’Donovan by Ferrey Danso to reduce the scoreline. The goal means that we haven’t kept a clean sheet since our goalless draw on 16th December at Colliers Wood United!

At 2-1 up things were a little nervy for a while. Brazier picked up a yellow card for a late foul out on the touchline as we started to get pushed back a little. A tactical substitution was made with Jerry Antwi coming on at the back for Taylor as we reverted to four at the back and we started to look a bit more comfortable again. In fact we nearly scored a third goal in the final minute of normal time when Miller attempted to replicate his earlier strike, but this time he cleared the bar by about a foot.

As time started to run out the visitors pushed forward in the hope of an equaliser and won a free kick right on the edge of our penalty area, but it was deflected wide from a corner, only for O’Donovan to drop the fairly easy catch from the subsequent set piece which led to a little bit of panic in the six yard box before the ball was cleared. Finally, after around seven minutes injury time, which was about the right amount, the final whistle blew and Salts fans could relax again.

It’s been a horrible season, but whilst we are not completely safe just yet, the odds are a lot more in our favour than they were seven days ago! One more match remains. See you at the Spectrum!

Epsom & Ewell: Dan O’Donovan, Ethan Brazier, Ethan Nelson-Roberts (c), Adam Green, Reece Tierney, Luke Taylor, Luke Miller, Thompson Adeyemi, Will Kendall, Carl Oblitey, Jaevon Dyer

Subs: Jerry Antwi for Taylor (71)

Report Source: www.eefconline.co.uk

Surrey’s next Police and Crime Commissioner will be?

4 PCC candidates montage

2nd May 2024 four candidates hope to get your vote for the £73,000 per annum post of Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). The core functions of a PCC is to secure the maintenance of an efficient and effective police force within their area, and to hold the chief constable to account for the delivery of the police and crime plan.

Four candidates are vying for the position and here are their responses to Epsom and Ewell Times’ request to provide statements for your consideration.

Kate Chinn
Kate Chinn – Labour

The Conservatives have lost control of crime in Epsom and Ewell’, says Kate Chinn, Labour’s candidate for Surrey’s police and crime commissioner.

‘Under the present Conservative commissioner, the record in Surrey is one of utter failure’, added Cllr Chinn, Labour leader on Epsom and Ewell Council.

Read more……..

I was born and raised in Surrey and live with my wife and two daughters in Epsom & Ewell. We don’t believe that 75% of women and girls feel safe after dark, like the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner says.

Since 2018 I’ve been a borough councillor. I’m also a member of the Surrey Police & Crime Panel and my local Community Safety Partnership. I’ve been a senior police manager and I’m currently an independent adviser on policing. I also founded a local charity to help people living in deprivation in our borough. We focus on helping vulnerable children.

Read more ………

Alex Coley – Independent

Paul Kennedy – Liberal Democrat

I came a strong 2nd in the last PCC elections with over 112,000 votes across Surrey; and with Epsom & Ewell constituency now a Liberal Democrat target for the general election, I’ve already spoken to many of you with our inspirational (ex-military police) parliamentary candidate Helen Maguire.

You’ve told us you want action on antisocial behaviour, drugs, shoplifting, burglaries and vehicle crime. You’re fed up with paying the highest council tax in the country for policing yet feeling less safe.

Read More ……….

I want to be re-elected as your Police and Crime Commissioner to continue building on the improvements I have driven within Surrey Police. 

Since you elected me 3 years ago, I’ve worked hard to keep Surrey safe, helping secure more police officers for our county than ever before and investing in projects to support communities. I have spoken with many of you and prioritised championing your voice and concerns.


Lisa Townsend – Conservative

The 2021 election produced the following result:

Related Reports:

Epsom and Ewell candidates dominate Police Commissioner election

Epsom’s Earth health doctor checks GMC

Health workers protest against GMC in climate aciton

Epsom residents led by Dr. Kristine Damberg converged Thursday 18th April on the General Medical Council (GMC) headquarters in Central London, decrying what they perceive as the regulator’s lackluster response to the urgent health risks posed by climate change. The demonstration, organized by the Planetary Health Coalition, aimed to spotlight the pressing need for action on climate-related health issues affecting the community.

Dr Damberg protesting outside General Medical Council.

Dr. Kristine Damberg, Senior Simulation Practitioner and ESTH Sustainability Champion based at Epsom Hospital, voiced concerns about the immediate health impacts of climate change in the area. She lamented the rise in climate-related ailments among patients, including heat-related illnesses during the 2022 heatwave. Dr. Damberg emphasized the gravity of the situation, citing staggering statistics: “In the UK, 29-43,000 people die unnecessarily every year because of air pollution.”

Adding: “Even in a relatively affluent area like Epsom we are seeing these impacts on patients presenting to GP surgeries and hospitals. In the 2022 heatwave there were 3000 excess deaths in the UK and on the wards at Epsom Hospital the temperature was consistently above 30 degrees. It was extremely challenging for staff to work and keep already vulnerable patients safe at these extreme temperatures.”

She stressed the imperative for proactive measures, echoing The Lancet’s designation of climate change as the most significant global health threat of the 21st century. “We need to act now to protect our community.”

However, the GMC’s recent efforts to incorporate sustainability into medical ethics guidelines have fallen short, according to Dr. Rammina Yassaie, a medic and ethicist. She criticized the optional nature of these additions, stating, “Practising climate-conscious medicine should be a clear duty of a doctor.” She called for more robust guidance from the regulator to address the climate crisis head-on.

Epsom resident Warren Bunce echoed these sentiments, expressing disappointment in the GMC’s perceived inaction. “The General Medical Council’s silence on climate change is a betrayal of public health,” he asserted. He called for stronger support for healthcare professionals in Epsom and beyond to confront the health consequences of a warming planet.

Protestors also raised concerns about the GMC’s financial ties to fossil fuel industries. Dr. Christelle Blunden, a GP from Southampton, highlighted the disconnect between the GMC’s ethical standards and its investments. “Doctors want their money out of ecologically destructive industries,” Dr. Blunden stated. She emphasized the need for regulatory bodies to lead by example in addressing the climate crisis.

The protest occurred amidst growing legal restrictions on climate activism, with the recent conviction of Dr. Sarah Benn, a GP from Birmingham, serving as a stark reminder of the risks faced by healthcare workers advocating for environmental causes. Dr. Benn’s case underscored broader concerns about the erosion of protest rights in the UK, prompting calls for greater protection for activists.

Related reports:

Climate Justice. A generation thing?

Job insecurity upsetting collegiate life

Surrey University

Nearly 92 per cent of voters in a Surrey University College Union (UCU) indicative survey supported holding a vote of no confidence in the Vice Chancellor, with a further 96 per in favour of a vote for the executive board. 

Surrey UCU has been campaigning against ‘compulsory’ redundancies and financial severance elicited by the University of Surrey in an all-staff emergency meeting on March 6. Vice Chancellor Professor Max Lu (VC) announced the university would have to cut staff and assets as part of cost-saving exercises. 

A UCU open letter dated April 11 alleged the university was trying to turn a “£10m deficit” into a “£10m surplus”. A spokesperson claimed staff feel they have been “coerced” into redundancy, or “feeling that their hand has been forced”.

An academic, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It’s extremely distracting and upsetting […] Commitment to the university falls and commitment to your work falls. You invest a lot of time into your institution and when your institution doesn’t value you back, you question why.”

Speaking about her department, she said: “It’s horrible. Morale is very low” and people feel “very insecure about their jobs”. 

High inflation, soaring energy bills and overall cost of living pressures were cited by the VC as reasons why the university needed to reduce its expenditure. Sector-wide problems within Higher Education such as “devaluing domestic tuition fees” and declining numbers of international students “due to external factors” were also highlighted in a letter by the VC

However, the UCU argued that poor financial management in “historical borrowing and significant spending on multi-million-pound projects” undermined the VC’s claim. Recent developments include the Surrey Institute for People-Centred AI (opened in 2021) and launching a new medical school with an intake for 2024.

Over 90 per cent of the university’s income was borrowed externally, coming second in the UK in 2021/22. Gross debt increased by £16.6m in 2022/23 to £296.5m compared to 2021/22, as the University entered into a new £20m term loan used to support the purchase of a building on campus, this was partially offset as a result of scheduled repayments. 

Soaring from 0.1 per cent interest rates in December 2021, to 5.25 in 2023,  the university now has to pay back around 4.5 per cent interest in its loans (2024).

“It’s a reckless […] way of living,” the academic said,  “to borrow, borrow, borrow with the hope that you will make that money back.” 

Rather than trying to “play with the big boys” and be a Russell Group university or UCL, the academic said, “Surrey needs to play to its strengths” as a small, safe university in Guildford which looks after its students. 

Fewer Surrey UCU members voted to start formal industrial action (75.3%) than those in favour of a no confidence motion. Academic staff explained striking would mean taking teaching away from university students, who were not at fault. 

The union is meeting on April 22 to discuss the next steps and has invited MP Angela Ricardson and parliamentary candidates to attend. 

A spokesperson from the University of Surrey said: ”Our University is not immune to the unprecedented financial pressures facing the UK’s higher education sector – including high inflation, high energy costs, the sustained devaluation of tuition fees and the recent decline in international student numbers. We’re taking a focused and nuanced approach to tackling these sector-wide challenges at Surrey, with our approach designed to minimise the impact on our people and our core mission. We are looking at a variety of measures to increase income and save on costs including offering voluntary severance to some colleagues. We are hoping to avoid compulsory redundancies.”

Getting teed off by golf club’s landfill designs

Entrance to Merrist Wood Golf Club. (Credit: Google Street View)

A Surrey golf club has been accused of being a “landfill site in disguise” after anger at the sheer volume of heavy lorries that could be needed to drop waste off at the site. 

The owners of Merrist Wood Golf Club, off Holly Lane, are hoping to redesign and reconstruct the existing course including water features and the creation of a heathland and wetland habitat.
The remodelling would include making use of nearly 600k tonnes of recovered ‘inert materials’ across the 55-hectare site. ‘Inert waste’ is discarded materials that do not biodegrade or chemically react with other substances.
These plans, which are currently under consideration, could see around 141 Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) movements at the sites for up to 256 days a year across the possible two years of the renovation project. A six-hour period is proposed for these movements meaning at peak times there could be one HGV movement every 2.5 minutes.
The planning application has received 55 objections and only one letter of support. Opposing the application, locals have raised concerns the HGVs would exacerbate an already congested road and increase wear and tear. One resident said: “Everything is just a constant worry. We moved here for peace and now it feels like it has been taken away.”
Road safety issues were highlighted by some residents, suggesting footpaths will be “destroyed” and there will be “no safe place” for students and parents to cross the road for Merrist Wood College and Fairlands School. Locals expressed fears about how the HGV movement would impact on ‘school run’ times and rush hour, citing the narrow lanes as already dangerous. 
Despite residents’ anxieties about the development’s impact on the road, Surrey County Council (SCC) officers have concluded that “there are no unacceptable highway and transport impacts”. 
The applicant argues the many road journeys over the construction period will be less disruptive than traffic caused by piece-meal course maintenance. As the source of the inert soils is still unknown, it is likely routes from both the north and the south will be used to access the site. 
Comments asked what ‘inert materials’ will consist of, with some dubious of where the matter will be sourced. Sceptical commentators have described it as a “landfill scheme in disguise” with the amount of material suggesting it is being “dumped on the site”. 
Rather than ‘borrowing’ existing soil on the course, inert waste is described as the ‘best way’ to create new terrain. Planning documents state if inert waste material was not used in the project, ‘virgin’ soil would have to be used. 
Constructed in 1996, the applicant argues the 18-hole golf course has ‘deteriorated’ and “suffers from a number of underlying design defects”. Taking over the course in 2020, Lavershots Oaks Ltd complained the club has a “poor reputation’ and is ‘failing’ as a sports club and as a business. 
The Guildford MP Angela Richardson has written to residents affected by the Merrist Wood Golf Club planning application to alert them to the proposals and the consultation. She raised concerns about the traffic disturbance, congestion caused and whether detritus will be left on the ground.
The Wooldridge Group (formerly known as Lavershot Oaks), which specialises in civil and contract build projects, filed for administration on February 5 this year. The Wooldridge Group has been approached for comment. 
Consultation on the application ends April 16.

Image: Entrance to Merrist Wood Golf Club. (Credit: Google Street View)

Walking with dinosaurs … not quite

Zehar Hicks and her sausage dog onEpsom Common

Epsom-based Zehra Hicks is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator whose books have been translated in over 20 languages. Through her work, she shows the magic of storytelling to children through her comical illustrations, which has led to an already impressive list of accolades, including being highly commended for the Macmillan Prize for Illustration and winner of the Heart of Hawick Award, to name a few.

When Dinosaurs Walked The Earth, authored by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Zehra, is one of five shortlisted books for this year’s £10,000 Oscar’s Book Prize. Founded in honour of book-loving Oscar Ashton who passed away aged three and a half from an undetected heart condition, the prize seeks to find the best children’s picturebook, and is supported by Amazon and the Evening Standard with Princess Beatrice as a patron. The winner will be announced at a ceremony in central London on the 7th May.

Zehra is a tutor at Chelsea College of Arts, where she completed a short course in Book Illustration in 2009.

Since then, she has been highly commended for the Macmillan Prize for Illustration, winner of the Heart of Hawick Award, named Lovereading4Kids Debut of the Year in 2011and shortlisted for the Read It Again! Cambridgeshire Children’s Picture Book Award.

About Epsom Zehra told the Epsom and Ewell Times: “I moved to Epsom from London 14 years ago when I was pregnant with our second child. For quite a while I missed living London, but now I definitely have the best of both worlds. I feel incredibly lucky to be living in a town with so many open green spaces like Epsom Common and Epsom Downs, yet only being a 35 mins train ride away from the capital.

“I love going for daily walks with my sausage dog, Vincent. Sometimes I even run with him. I’m much more likely to come up with book ideas on a walk or run than stuck behind my desk! And I love bumping into people for little chats. Being an author and an illustrator can be quite lonely, and I find Epsom residents and dog walkers so friendly.

“I work in cafes too, so although some people may think there are too many cafes in Epsom, I happily make use of them ALL! You may often see me in Gail’s or D’s Coffee House with a sketch book working on new ideas. I love the buzz in cafes – it helps my creativity, and I love that there seems to be more and more residents working in cafes, creating a lively working community.”

“Having an art shop and bookshop is a huge benefit to me too, as is the market. It would be lovely to have some more independents though. A few are cropping up, but very, very slowly!”

Image: Zehra Hicks and her sausage dog on Epsom Common

Low morale hits Surrey Police

Two policemen

Up to 20 per cent of Surrey Police officers want to leave due to low morale and poor pay, according to a new report. 

Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) found that 84 per cent of officers had experienced stress, low mood or anxiety over the studied 12  months. Of 2,276 Surrey police officers, 460 responded to the Pay and Morale Survey from November 2023.

PFEW issued its survey to support its national campaign for fair pay for police officers and an independent pay mechanism. It found nearly 80 per cent of officers said they were unsatisfied with their pay, with 69 per cent saying their workload was ‘too high’.

Tom Arthur, Branch Secretary of Surrey Police Federation, said: “This year shows yet again that officer morale stays at an all-time low, some 90% of those surveyed confirming this – with pay and feeling undervalued by the Government being the main reasons.

“One in five of my colleagues in Surrey are actively seeking alternative employment. Forces and the Government cannot keep ignoring this and making platitudes to the public about how they are serious in dealing with Law and Order.”

Polling 460 officers, 20 per cent of respondents said they intend to resign from Surrey Police either ‘within the next two years’ or ‘as soon as [they] can’. This was slightly lower than the national average (22 per cent) in the PFEW survey. 

Due to the high number of staff leavers Surrey has a group monitoring resignations with leavers’ questionnaires and stay interviews. A recent PEEL inspection into Surrey Police found it still “lacks understanding” why staff or recruits might leave the force. 

Adrian Rutherford, Director of People Services for Surrey Police and Sussex Police said: “We have seen our largest police officer recruitment drive in a decade; welcoming hundreds of new officers into our organisation and onto the streets of our communities.” 

However, 12 per cent of police staff posts were vacant at the end of November 2023, according to a Surrey Police and Crime panel report. Approximately 73 per cent of respondents from Surrey Police said that they would not recommend joining the police to others. 

The report found 85 per cent feel ‘worse off’ financially now than they were five years ago and 16 per cent ‘never’ or ‘almost never’ have enough money to cover all their essentials. Whilst police officers received a 7 per cent pay rise in 2023, they have still seen a 16 per cent real-terms pay cut since 2011. 

Supporting and protecting Surrey’s workforce was found to ‘require improvement’ in the latest PEEL report (December 2023). The force had not completed a well-being survey in three years, or the Bluelight self-assessment to understand what affects good or poor well-being. 

Officers responding to the PFEW survey said they do not feel respected by the Government (95 per cent) and they do not feel valued within the service (65 per cent) and over half (54 per cent) said they were experiencing low morale. 

Surrey Police said it had a wellbeing strategy “which places officer and staff wellbeing at the heart of the organisation”. Indeed, the force’s mental health app, Backup Buddy, won best innovation at the InsideOut Awards 2021. However, according to the survey, morale and pride in the force have dipped since then. 

Adrian added: “Our police officers undertake a demanding and often dangerous role, ensuring that we keep Surrey safe and protect the most vulnerable from harm. As a force, we are doing all that we can to ensure that we’re alleviating some of the pressures faced by those on the front-line.

“We will be looking closely at the findings of the survey, alongside our recent internal employee opinion survey to look at what we can do to improve matters. We wish to be an employer of choice and will continue to work with our colleagues in the Federation, as well as our own people, to ensure we’re doing all that we can to demonstrate the high value we place on our officers and staff and to be the best employer that we can be.”

Image Dave Connor CC 2 by deed (altered placing officers in front of Surrey Police HQ entrance)