Helping residents this winter

In April I spoke about how Central Bedfordshire Council continued to support residents with the rising cost of living.

Last year we supported over 9,000 vulnerable households with food, energy and water bills using the Household Support Fund. We’ve continued this support over the summer and further funding has been made available to help residents through the winter.

We’ve used some of this funding to support local food banks and our new Ward Councillor Grants are being used to support a variety of voluntary organisations.

Recognising the pressures facing our residents, the Council has just agreed extra funding for the voluntary sector and Citizen’s Advice so they can help more residents.  

We’re also setting up a crisis fund to be administered by our Children’s Centres to provide emergency assistance for families facing hardship.

Our libraries will be open to all as ‘Warm Spaces’ where people can access free Wi-Fi, computer use and study space.

We’re currently consulting on improvements to our Council Tax Support Scheme which, if agreed, will provide more support to those on low incomes by reducing the amount of Council Tax they pay. No existing claimant will receive less support than at present.

At a time when people are struggling with the rising cost of living, it’s more important than ever that people are getting the support they’re entitled to.

Nationally we know there are millions of people who are entitled to but are not claiming Pension Credit.  It is an important boost for older people with a low income and can provide access to a wide range of other benefits, including help with council tax. Anyone over 66 years of age can check their eligibility and apply, visit either www.gov.uk/pension-credit or call 0800 99 1234.

Change and opportunity

As is right and proper, announcements about new Government policies were paused during the national period of mourning.

We now look forward to the new Government, headed by Liz Truss who has moved quickly to announce very significant help with energy bills over the next two years for hard-pressed households and a six-month scheme for most business organisations including charities and public bodies.

Then, on Friday during the fiscal event, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced exciting new policies to accelerate economic growth.  This included new Investment Zones in 38 local authority areas, including Central Bedfordshire.  We are working hard with government to introduce these as soon as possible.

We want to encourage more opportunities to enable our residents to work closer to home and to have rewarding employment. Investment Zones can help us to achieve this.  

A possible location could be an 84-acre site in Cranfield where Marshall’s are considering relocating from Cambridge. They would join an existing cutting-edge research and aerospace innovation community. Enabling this to happen at speed will expand local employment and training opportunities.

We are also looking at several other potential sites across Central Bedfordshire and I look forward to sharing more details about this exciting initiative over the coming months.

A new Sovereign

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, a new Sovereign has acceded to the Throne.

Charles became our King on the passing of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.  Yesterday (Saturday 10th September) at the Accession Council which took place at St James’s Palace, he was formally proclaimed King Charles III.

A proclamation ceremony for the county of Bedfordshire took place earlier today in Bedford.  This afternoon at 3.30pm the Vice-Chair of Central Bedfordshire Council read out the proclamation at Priory House.  It was a great honour to be able to attend both events.

It was clear from our new King’s first address to the nation that he shares the same values as his mother; he vowed to serve the whole nation with loyalty, respect and love. His Majesty has always taken a keen and active interest in all areas of public life with a particular passion about protecting the environment for future generations.

Following the long reign of Queen Elizabeth II, His Majesty King Charles III, will continue to inspire and lead our nation.

Mourning Her Majesty The Queen

The nation is in mourning at the loss of Her Majesty The Queen and it is an extremely sad time.

Leader of Central Bedfordshire Council, Councillor Richard Wenham, in mourning.

The Queen has been the strength of the nation. Her 70-year reign means she was the UK’s longest serving monarch and a truly great leader standing out in our long history.  She will be fondly remembered by the nation, long into the future.

Her Majesty The Queen was driven by her sense of duty which remained right to the end. Throughout her long reign she has been the symbol of stability and stoic through difficult times.  Her smile and gentle humour brought warmth to many formal occasions.

My thoughts and heartfelt sympathies are with the Royal Family at this time. I know they will take comfort in the reaction and support from the public both here and across the globe.

Thank-you Queen Elizabeth II.

Heat and exam results

On the 18th and 25th of this month, students across Central Bedfordshire opened their exam results. This year is the first year since 2019 that students have sat exams in the pre-pandemic format and I can only imagine that must have been quite daunting for some. It was great news that the average point score per entry for our A-level students came out as 35.31 or ‘B  grade’ as I know it. A 5.14 points increase from 2019’s (30.17), or ‘C grade’.

Whatever your individual results were, or if you are uncertain about your future plans, Central Bedfordshire Council has plenty of free advice and support regarding what to do next. Our careers portal, Find Your Future is for 14-to-19-year-olds. Also, our Youth Support Service offers support to 16 to 18 years olds, or up to 25-year -olds for those with Education, Health and Care Plans. Simply email: youth.services@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk

I mentioned this last time, but Central Bedfordshire Council has over 70 apprentices this year in a diverse range of roles which is another excellent career avenue for all ages to apply for.

I hope that you are enjoying the summer and I’m glad it has not been as hot as it was last month. Unfortunately, we’ve seen an increase in fires because everywhere has been so dry and although we don’t have a hose pipe ban in our area, it is certainly making us all the more conscious about wasting water. Through the heatwave, we created our ‘Cool Places’ – venues across Central Bedfordshire where residents could go to stay cool. This offer was well received along with our work to make sure shelter was provided to those who are homeless. Please be assured that if we have a very hot spell again, then this offer will be made available for all that need it.

As the summer holiday draws to a close, I would just like to wish all students a successful start to the 2022/2023 school year.