Borough Cllr Update – April 2020

Riseley ward 

Bedford Borough Councillor Report:  

  1. Borough Council Meetings 

Overview & Scrutiny Committees have been suspended until June. Planning Committee  rules were changed in March, to allow more delegation of decisions to officers. However,  now that virtual meetings are possible, it is expected that the next meeting of the  Committee will change this back again. There has been concern from some Councillors  about the slowness of the Borough in switching to virtual meetings, when other Councils  were already underway. However, I was advised last Friday (17th April) that we are now  proceeding with virtual meetings which the public will also be able to access and ask  questions. 

  1. Borough Council Services 

Borough Council services continue to operate, though with much reduced capacity. Where  possible Council officers are working from home. The Borough is updating its website  www.bedford.gov.uk – fairly frequently with the latest information. Services are being  prioritised with a particular focus on services to vulnerable people. Refuse service are  reduced and planning applications are still being processed. Please check the Borough  website to get the latest updates. 

  1. Community leadership role 

As things stand, although the Government has extended the lockdown for 3 weeks, I am  being advised that in reality we are likely to be this for at least 12 weeks. This sounds truly  daunting, and there is a lot of human behaviour management at work People WILL get truly  cheesed off and compliance with the lockdown will be tested as time moves on. As  community leaders, it is important that we re-enforce the “stay at home, protect the NHS,  save lives” message, otherwise we do run the risk of a second peak. It is vital that we all  fulfil our community leadership role. Can I request that those of you on social media use it  frequently to re-enforce the ‘stay at home’ message. 

  1. Waste collections 

Green waste collections have been suspended until further notice. Residents are requested  to try and compost green waste until collections resume. The collections in Wixams appear  to have been earlier than usual. I am advised that although there is less traffic on the road,  the fact that so many people are at home means that the refuse lorries are having to  negotiate more parked cars. As a result, this might mean collections are earlier/later than  normal. 

  1. Recycling Centre closed 

The Borough’s Household Waste recycling Centre in Brakers lane is closed until further  notice. The Mayor has considered trying to re-open it, however he advises that the Police  closed a recycling centre in the North of England after they stated it was impossible to  manage social distancing properly.

  1. Planning Applications 

The Planning process has not been suspended or delayed and planning applications are  continuing to be received and processed. I have asked the planning Department to ensure  that Parish Councils are still contacted for consultation as normal. Borough Councillors are  being sent lists of major applications in case there is a need for a call-in to the planning  Committee, which can now meet virtually. Planning Committee schedule for 27th April has  been cancelled and the next meeting will be 18th May. 

  1. Borough Community Hub 

The Borough has set up a “Community Hub” in order to assist isolated and/or vulnerable  people with shopping or collection of medical prescriptions. The process that has been set  up is as follows: 

Volunteers have been mobilised who have agreed to shop for fellow residents. Many volunteers have been happy to pay for the shopping themselves and then drop at  the resident’s door. The Borough has set up a process where the shopper emails the  Council the receipt and the Borough aims to reimburse the shopper through a direct  payment to their bank. 

The Borough has organised shopping vouchers which can be used at Tesco, Sainsbury’s  and Morrison’s. These are emailed to the volunteer shoppers as PDFs and can be used  via their phones at checkouts. The shopper emails the receipts to the Council. 

The fall-back position is that the volunteer shopper can call at the Corn Exchange and  will be provided with cash. They drop the receipt and change back to the Corn  Exchange. 

In all cases the Borough has set up a process for ‘invoicing’ the resident afterwards  (where they are in a position to repay). Irrespective the resident does not need cash or  to pay upfront. The residents are instructed they must not hand over cash to volunteer  shoppers. 

Over the Easter bank holiday weekend, the Borough Community Hub provided support to  vulnerable residents across the borough, which included delivering the 1000th food parcel  to those in need. 

Contact details for the Community Hub are: 01234 718 101 

If you either need help, or want to offer help, please use this weblink: 

https://www.bedford.gov.uk/social-care-health-and-community/public 

health/coronavirus/coronavirus-community-hub/ 

  1. Community Groups

Community Groups have been working together to help residents locally with shopping,  prescriptions and dog walking. I would like to thank both Groups for their work for our  community and the speed with which they were up and running. They have been held up by  the Mayor and others at the Borough as an example to others.  

  1. Vulnerable residents 

Each Borough Councillor has been provided with a list of local residents in their ward that  the Government has identified as potentially ‘vulnerable’. I have a list fo and should anyone  require help, I will notify the Borough Hub and the local Community Groups, to try and  provide assistance.  

  1. Coronavirus in Bedford Borough and Bedford Hospital 

As of Saturday 18th April, 244 cases of Covid19 had been reported across Bedford Borough including at Bedford Hospital.  

  1. Support for Businesses 

£10.12m has already been given to Bedford businesses, to support them through the  impact of coronavirus. Bedford Council is administering the Government grant funding for  certain businesses ratepayers affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

The Council has set up an online form, to make it as easy as possible for local ratepayers to  get this money. Eligible businesses are asked to get in touch with the Council online and  provide the necessary details for their business, which will enable the Council to get this  grant funding to them as quickly as possible. 

Grants available to businesses include: 

small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate  relief or rural rate relief 

grant funding for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses of £10,000 where the rateable  value is up to including £15,000, with the grant increasing to £25,000 where the  rateable value is between £15,001 and £50,999 

This is in addition to a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and  nursery businesses in England. 

For more information on COVID-19 small business support grants, please visit: www.bedford.gov.uk/covid19business or email covid19business@bedford.gov.uk 

  1. Online help and advice for Wellbeing 

Bedford Council has created a new page, bedford.gov.uk/wellbeing, offering advice to  Borough residents on how to look after themselves whilst at home during the coronavirus  outbreak and beyond. The page will be updated over the coming weeks and will offer advice  and signposting to help residents stay healthy during this unprecedented time.

This new page includes a range of materials, such as: 

Exercise tips including indoor games for kids, live fitness classes, and seated exercise Mental health advice and links to services that can provide help 

Food & nutritional guidance including Change4Life, recipes and cooking videos Further Public Health advice including sexual health, stop smoking, drugs and  alcohol, health checks and emotional wellbeing 

  1. Dentists 

Most dentists are currently closed and only those seeking emergency dental treatment  should try and see a dentist. I am not yet aware of how and where people can seek  emergency treatment, but I will share when known. 

  1. Homeless 

The Borough Council has put in place measures to accommodate homeless people, so that  they are able to stay inside and observe social distancing measures. 

  1. Schools 

Schools across the Borough are currently operating at between 12-15% capacity with spaces  mainly taken for children of key workers.  

  1. Council Tax 

Bedford Council is asking vulnerable groups and those self-isolating to pay Council Tax by phone or online instead of in person. Residents normally paying Council Tax at the Post  Office or a Payzone shop are advised to use a different method of payment, if possible. 

Residents can call the Council’s telephone payment service to pay their Council Tax on  01234 718061 (24 hours a day) or visit www.bedford.gov.uk/payments. Residents can also  setup a direct debit to pay their Council Tax by calling 01234 718097. 

  1. Bogus calls and scams to businesses 

Despite the generally positive way that people are adapting to the Coronavirus pandemic,  sadly there are always a small few who seek to take advantage. There have been a number  of reports of bogus callers targeting businesses. Bedford Council is urging small businesses  to act with caution if they receive a suspicious telephone call or email regarding business  rates or support grants. 

  1. Borough ward boundary review 

The Borough expects to hear from the Boundary Commission on 20th April as to whether  they will postpone the 4th May deadline for public responses to the ward Boundary review.  

Cllr. Martin Towler 

April 2020

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