Category Archives: SUSY News

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Surrey Police needs improvement

Inspectors have found that Surrey Police needs to improve in how it responds to the public.

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services graded the force’s performance in a total of nine areas.

The inspectorate found that the force answered 77% of 999 calls within 10 seconds, below the target of 90%.

Surrey Police said it took the issues raised by the HMICFRS “very seriously”.

Royal Mail delays cause festive concern

Residents across Surrey and Sussex say they are experiencing delays in receiving and sending post in the build-up to Christmas.

Some people say they are only receiving one delivery a week and that they have been told to collect post from the sorting office instead.

One resident said there appeared to be a lack of staffing and if one postal worker was ill, there was “no cover”.

Royal Mail said it was recruiting 16,000 staff for the festive period.

Warnings in Crawley

Warnings are being issued over distraction thefts in Crawley.

It’s after two incidents in the town of people being targeted while withdrawing cash.

Both cases involved a distraction and the victims’ jackets being sprayed with paint.

Nurseries forced to close in South East

Hundreds of early years providers in the South East have closed down, Ofsted data shows.

Between March and August 2023, 242 providers across Kent, Sussex and Surrey shut their doors.

Nurseries said they could not afford to run and were facing a staffing crisis.

The Department for Education (DfE) recognised “local challenges” in childcare availability but said it was “rolling out the single biggest investment” in the sector ever.

Graffham Nursery, a non-profit childcare provider in rural West Sussex, closed in August as it ran out of money and could not recruit staff.

Florence Sherwood, former chairperson of Graffham Nursery’s governance committee, said management had to “cut everything to the bone” before making the decision to close.

It was “really hard, really stressful and really sad”, she said.

“All of our bills were going up. All of our costs were going up. The staffing costs were going up because the minimum wage payments had gone up,” Ms Sherwood added.

The nursery used to “get seven applicants within a couple of weeks” for job vacancies but this year, an advert for an early years practitioner attracted two applications in six months – neither of whom were qualified.

Stepping Stone Preschool in Canterbury, Kent, opened in 1967 but came close to closing down earlier this year.

The provider had to run a JustGiving campaign and access external funding from charities, the council and alumni in order to stay open.

Sally Heath, manager at Stepping Stones, said: “We are chronically underfunded by government as the free child places do not cover our costs, the national living wage increases each year and we can barely afford to pay our staff that.

“It’s a shame as demand for two-year-old places has never been higher, as these will also be covered by free childcare from April 2024.”

Research from the Early Education and Childcare Coalition (EECC) said 57% of nursery staff were considering leaving in the next 12 months.

The DfE said it was “launching a new national recruitment campaign” and “looking to introduce a new accelerated apprenticeship route into the sector”.

Kate, a mother of two in Brighton, said her children had moved between three different childcare providers over the past three years due to closures – one with four weeks notice.

Her daughter, aged three, and son, 18 months, are now in separate nurseries as she could not find one to accommodate them both.

She said the experience had been “stressful and challenging”.

However, Kate said when she was looking for new providers, choice was extremely limited and some nurseries had waiting lists over a year long.

Kate said although she was happy with her daughter’s nursery, she was “really struggling” with the disruption of changing to a different setting for the second time.

“She’s sad. She misses her friends. To hear your three-year-old say that is really hard,” Kate said.

The DfE said it had begun investing “hundreds of millions of pounds to increase hourly funding rates”, and will soon invest “£100m in capital funding for more early years and wrapround places and spaces”.

By April 2024, the government intends to provide 15 hours of childcare to all working parents with a two-year-old, rising to 30 hours for all children aged nine months to four years old by September 2025.

However, the EECC reported that only 17% of nurseries would be able to deliver these additional hours due to staff shortages and financial pressures.

Concerns raised over Thames Water

Thames Water has said that reviving the business will “take time” as it reported sliding profits and an increase in its huge debt pile.

Profits for the first half of its financial year more than halved to £246m, while debts rose 7% to £14.7bn.

Thames Water secured extra funds in July, but questions have been raised over the nature of the support.

The head of the Environment Committee said he could recall the firm’s boss to be quizzed by MPs over the deal.

Concern over Thames’ financial strength earlier this year led to speculation it might be taken over by the government.

But the company’s two interim chief executives have said that will not be necessary, as it has more than £3bn in cash and recently got a £500m cash injection from its shareholders.

However, the Financial Times reported recently that the source of that money was a further loan to its parent company, Kemble Water Holdings.

The chairman of the Environment Committee, Sir Robert Goodwill, has questioned whether Thames has represented its finances accurately.

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Sir Robert said: “The question I think we need to ask Thames Water is… how will that debt be serviced, because unless they increase dividends, to enable Kemble Water Holdings to service that debt, they could end up in an even more difficult situation.”

Sir Robert said he was meeting Thames Water later. “My suggestion will be that we invite the chief executive, Cathryn Ross, back to the committee to just explain why it is that although they say they’ve had more equity introduced, the FT report suggests that it is actually more debt piled upon the debt that’s already there.”

The company has already written to Sir Robert saying that the £500m “does not increase the debt burden” on Thames Water.

Investors have also said they will pump in an additional £750m but that is contingent on the regulator agreeing to bill increases of 40% by 2030.

Thames Water’s co-chief executives, Cathryn Ross and Alastair Cochran, said: “It is clear that immediate and radical action is required.”

They added: “Turning around Thames will take time. We simply cannot do everything that our customers and stakeholders wish to see at a pace and for a price that everyone would like.

“We will continue to make the tough choices required to deliver what matters most to our customers and the environment.”

A spokesperson for Thames Water added the company was “in a robust financial position and are extremely fortunate to have such supportive shareholders”.

Last week, the auditors of Kemble Water Holdings warned there was a “material concern” over its future.

This was partly due to uncertainty over how a £190m loan, which is due for repayment in April 2024, will be refinanced.

Thames’ latest results show that the number of pollution incidents increased during the six months to September.

It admitted performance had “deteriorated”, with the number of category 1-3 pollutions – where category 1 is the most serious – had risen to 257 from 217 in the same period last year.

The company said its three-year turnaround plan “addresses and mitigates the major drivers of pollutions across our wastewater network and sewage treatment works”.

“We are committed to tackling the root causes of pollutions to meet the expectations of our communities and the needs of the environment.”

Earlier this year, Thames Water was fined £3.3m after it discharged millions of litres of untreated sewage into two rivers near Gatwick in 2017, killing more than 1,400 fish.

Later on Tuesday, Labour will table a motion calling on the government to give the water regulator, Ofwat, powers to ban the payment of bonuses to water bosses if their companies are discharging “significant” levels of raw sewage into UK waterways.