Supporting residents during the heatwave

I’m sure everyone is very much aware of the extreme heat we’re experiencing today and tomorrow. 

Whilst we are used to fluctuating temperatures during our British summers, the heatwave this week is unprecedented. Following the Met Office red weather alert on Friday we’ve been sharing information and advice on how to stay cool and keeping hydrated. 

For some people, particularly the vulnerable, the extreme heat can be dangerous. We have several ‘cool spaces’ open for people to keep cool and out of the heat. Even though these places are available to all, we ask that you offer these to anyone vulnerable first, and only to come if it is safe to travel to these buildings. Buildings include some of our libraries and leisure centres, the full list is below.

Building NameBuilding AddressOpening Times
Sandy LibraryMarket Square, Sandy, SG19 1EHSaturday 9am to 4pm
Sunday: Closed
Monday: 9am to 6pm (Cool Space only no Library service)
Tuesday: 9am to 6pm
Stotfold LibraryHitchin Road, Stotfold, SG5 4GPSaturday 9am to 4pm
Sunday: Closed
Monday: 9am to 6pm (Cool Space only no Library service)
Tuesday: 9am to 1pm
Shefford LibraryHigh Street, Shefford, SG17 5DDSaturday 9am to 4pm
Sunday: Closed
Monday: 9am to 6pm (Cool Space only no Library service)
Tuesday: 9am to 6pm
Leighton Buzzard LibraryLeighton Buzzard Library, Ground Floor Library Building, Lake Street, Leighton Buzzard LU7 1RX.Saturday 9am to 4pm
Sunday: Closed
Monday: 9am to 6pm (Cool Space only no Library service)
Tuesday: 9am to 6pm
Dunstable LibraryThe Dunstable Centre, Court Drive. Dunstable, LU5 4JDSaturday: 9 to 4pm
Sunday: 9 to 4pm
Monday to Friday: 9 to 6pm
Dunstable Leisure Centre The Dunstable Centre, Court Drive, Dunstable, LU5 4JDSaturday: 7am to 7pm
Sunday: 7am to 8pm
Monday to Friday: 6am to 10-pm
Flitwick Leisure CentreSteppingley Road, Flitwick, MK45 1THSaturday: 8am to 8pm
Sunday: 7am to 9om
Monday to Friday: 6am to 10:30pm
Houghton Regis Leisure Centre Parkside Drive, Houghton Regis, LU5 5PY Saturday: 8am to 6:30pm
Sunday: 8am to 7pm
Monday to Friday: 6:30am to 10pm
Sandy Sports CentreEngayne Avenue, Sandy, SG19 1BLSaturday and Sunday: 8am to 10pm
Monday to Friday: 6am to 10pm
Saxon Leisure Centre in BiggleswadeSaxon Drive, Biggleswade, SG18 8SUSaturday: 7:30am to 6pm
Sunday: 8am to 9pm
Monday to Friday: 6am to 10pm
Tiddenfoot Leisure Centre Mentmore Drive, Leighton Buzzard, LU7 2AFSaturday: 7am to 7pm
Sunday: 7:30am to 9pm
Monday to Friday: 6am to 10pm

We’re also in close contact with colleagues in the NHS to ensure we share information such as making use of the NHS 111 service to help keep the pressure off the hospitals. 

The heat is also impacting some of our services. This week, our bin crews will be out a little earlier so that they too can avoid the extreme heat later in the day and we’ve been rearranging our roadworks schedule so we are only carrying out small-scale fixes which require no tarmacking. 

During extreme heat, we work with Noah Enterprise, who support rough sleepers with severe weather advice, water, sun cream, and other resources. You can let us know someone is sleeping rough through the StreetLink app, on the phone (day) 0300 300 4370, on the phone (out of hours) 0300 300 8098. If someone sleeping rough appears seriously unwell and you think they may need urgent medical assistance, call 999.

We know some schools may need to close and headteachers will make this decision based on their facilities. Schools will let parents know directly if they close.  

There may be some disruption to public transport, so if travel is necessary, keep a careful eye on the real-time displays at bus stops and train websites.  If you do need to travel, take water with you and make use of local cool spaces if you need to. 

The extreme heat is only due to last a couple of days and everyone can help by checking in on vulnerable friends, relatives, and neighbours. 

For more information, links, and advice, visit the summer weather pages on our website.

Cheering our volunteers

Whilst the council invests millions every year building facilities like schools, leisure centres, roads and care homes, we also recognise the value of smaller, community led facilities. That’s why we run schemes to provide financial support to boost these important local services.  

Voluntary, community and not-for-profit groups can apply for our Community Asset Grant of up to £25,000 to improve or provide new community facilities. 44 projects have been supported for a range of projects including refurbishing a cricket clubhouse, new children’s play area, church solar panels and wheelchair accessible minibuses.

Ward councillors also have £2,000 that they can allocate to local projects that demonstrate a community benefit. Councillors can also work together across a ward to combine their grants if that’s what is most needed. These grants have been used to pay for new camping equipment for scout groups, podcast equipment for a youth group, picnic benches for a memorial hall, polytunnels for a community garden and much more.

Whether it’s a cultural, environmental, sporting, or social project, large or small we want to help you.

Supporting local community-based groups is incredibly important to making Central Bedfordshire a great place to live. These groups are often run by volunteers who, as was evident in the pandemic, can be the backbone of our communities.

Earlier this month it was Volunteer Week; throughout the week we celebrated our local heroes and the week culminated in a special Cheering Volunteering event where we thanked these amazing individuals and groups for the excellent support they have provided to our communities.

Over 150 volunteers joined us for afternoon tea at the Rufus Centre in Flitwick. The event included stalls and wellbeing sessions to provide volunteers with treats and advice. It seemed a very fitting way of saying thank you for all their time and commitment they give to help others.

Applications for Community Asset Grants are open until 25 July 2022 at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/grant-scheme

Celebrating the Jubilee

An extended bank holiday weekend is approaching to mark 70 years of the Queen’s reign.

To celebrate this unprecedented anniversary, events and initiatives within our community, as well as nationally, have been taking place throughout the year.  This is culminating in the holiday from Thursday 2 to Sunday 5 June which provides an opportunity for communities to come together to celebrate this historic milestone.

You may have already seen posters in your local community or received an invitation through the post notifying you of an event in your area.  You can also discover events taking place near you on the Platinum Jubilee Map and also submit details if you are hosting your own event.

Town and Parish councils across Central Bedfordshire have events planned, including Houghton Regis which is holding a free Jubilee and Beacon Lighting event for the community, a Jubilee Laser show in Flitwick, a Firework display in Leighton-Linslade and a Big Jubilee Picnic in Barton-Le-Clay.

Across the country, trees have also been planted as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy (QGC).  I was delighted to join a tree planting event at Jubilee Wood in Biggleswade led by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Helen Nellis, last October. The idea is to increase and protect the native tree cover and create this ‘special gift’ for the Queen.

The Council has held several tree giveaways and the response was fantastic. Hawthorn, birch, and maple field trees were handed out; over 16,000 trees have been planted and over 1,000 metres of hedgerow across Central Bedfordshire.

If you want to get involved, it’s not too late.  In line with the tree planting season, the Council are going to be giving more trees away in the Autumn.

I wish you all a relaxing Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend.

Standing together with Ukraine

Central Bedfordshire councillors unanimously backed a motion to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and unreservedly condemn the unjustifiable and illegal actions of the Russian state, in invading Ukraine and deploying alarmingly brutal military tactics.

It’s not often that politicians from all parties unite on a cause and this was one such occasion. Since the start of the invasion, the apparent escalation of tactics is appalling and it’s very hard to take in the terrible scenes coming out of Ukraine on a daily basis.

The motion was an opportunity to publicly acknowledge and thank our residents who have responded to the plight of the Ukrainian people with enormous generosity and kindness. It is amazing that so many have offered their homes and others are supporting through local community groups and donating to charity.

We all share the sentiment that we should do all that we can to welcome and support those arriving in Central Bedfordshire. The Council have set up a dedicated liaison team to support refugees and residents, who have offered their homes through the Government Homes for Ukraine scheme and we will work with our local community groups and voluntary sector, to provide the wrap-around support that will help those who have had to flee their home country resettle here.

The community response has been truly remarkable and an uplifting reminder of the good in the world. I know our communities will continue to do everything they can to help Ukrainians feel welcomed.

If you have offered your home through the Homes for Ukraine scheme, there’s lots of information on our website.

If you want to donate, the best way to do this is to donate to Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). DEC brings together 15 charities, and your donations will help DEC charities provide food, water, shelter and healthcare to refugees and displaced families.

Helping residents with the rising cost of living

Household budgets are being squeezed more and more as energy, fuel, inflation and food prices continue to soar. Its important everyone knows how to access support if they are struggling.

Every household in a Council Tax band A-D property will receive a one-off payment of £150 to help with energy costs. If you pay Council Tax by direct debit this will go directly into your bank account. If you don’t pay by direct debit the Council will be in touch with you to explain how your payment will be made – you do not need to contact us.

The Council has helped 9,000 vulnerable households with food, energy and water bills using the Household Support Fund. This includes over 12,000 supermarket vouchers for households with children eligible for free school meals to support with food costs during school holidays. We’ve also used some of this funding to support local food banks. 

A second round of the Household Support Fund has been announced and councils will be able to give more support to pensioners through the updated scheme. More information will be available later in the year.

We also fund three local Citizen’s Advice organisations which provide impartial financial management advice, debt advice and help make sure residents apply for the different benefits they might be eligible for.

If you are starting to struggle with paying your rent or mortgage, get in touch with our housing team who can advise you. Don’t wait until you are at risk of becoming homeless, the sooner we can help you the better.

You may also be able to get help with your Council Tax. Although we have tried to keep Council Tax increases as low as possible, we continue to protect those residents on lowest incomes, so those most in need pay no or very little Council Tax.

This year is set to be tough for everybody, especially those on low incomes and Central Bedfordshire Council will continue to support you in any way we can. If you are struggling, please contact us or one of our partner agencies for advice and support.