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.

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