Season’s greetings

Traditionally, Christmas is about spending time with family and friends – but using our time to support others is perhaps the true spirit of giving at Christmas.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all volunteers in our communities who give up their time to help others, particularly over the festive break. Whether you’re checking in on elderly neighbours during the recent cold spell, volunteering more formally or fostering children who cannot be with their birth families, you are making a difference and contributing to making Central Bedfordshire a great place to live.

Whether you observe Christmas as a festival or take the opportunity to celebrate this time of year in your own way, I hope you can spend time with those dearest to you, and I wish you all the best for the upcoming year.

Cllr Richard Wenham

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.

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.

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.

The sad death of MP Sir David Amess

Almost two weeks ago now we lost another dedicated public servant – Sir David Amess. 

Sir David had been meeting constituents in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, when he was stabbed multiple times. 

The circumstances of his death are truly shocking but also frighteningly familiar. I’m sure most of us will recall the similarly appalling murder of Jo Cox MP in 2016. 

Both David and Jo were deeply devoted to public service and meeting and talking to their local residents. This is something we all do as councillors or MPs – it’s a critical part of our role giving local residents the chance to share thoughts, concerns and issues with us – it keeps us in touch with the people we represent. 

I know fellow councillors have often suffered abuse online which is unacceptable but also some have experienced intimidating behaviour in person too. 

No matter what our political beliefs, most of us go into politics because we are passionate about making a difference, making a change. Positive and lasting change can only happen through conversation and debate, never through violence.  It is utterly abhorrent that any political figure should feel their personal safety is at risk. 

Not only is it a terrible loss in politics, but it is also an unbearable loss in their family. My thoughts, as are yours too I am sure, are with David’s family. It is the worst possible thing you could ever imagine happening. 

I am also sure this tragedy will have bought back awful memories for Jo Cox’s family too. 

I hope both families can take some comfort in the public reaction, a sense of solidarity and kindness during their darkest time.