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.

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.

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

Helping people live their best lives

Following the turmoil of the pandemic and its impact on local people, communities and businesses, we have renewed our commitment to make Central Bedfordshire a great place to live and work, for everyone. 

Our new strategic plan outlines our areas of focus for the next five years. One of our guiding principles is Fairness. We will create opportunities for everyone, lifting people out of poverty, and putting safeguards in place to avoid people slipping into poverty so everyone can live their best lives.

We’re already making great strides to ensure this is a reality in the services we provide to children. 

In 60 of our schools, we have been running a programme to provide extra support to disadvantaged children both in and out of the classroom, to help them achieve the best possible grades. We’ve also been supporting Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families with access to early years education. We know Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children can often have a disrupted education. We are helping these children with their learning with the intention of them continuing into secondary education.

Outside of education, we are working with hundreds of children who have not had the best starts in life and cannot stay with their families and we become their corporate parents. In those situations, we pride ourselves on being more than just a local council providing a roof over their heads – we work hard to nurture their talents, setting them up to live successful lives. You can read more about this in my previous blog.

We are investing in services to support adults too, and we have recently extended our community catalysts programme for a further three years, which supports small business that are aimed at delivering personalised care and support services.

We know there is more we can do to address poverty and inequality so over the coming months we will be considering what else we can do. We will help all of our residents, including those who come to Central Bedfordshire after fleeing their own countries because of war. In these worrying times, we all want to help. The council stands ready to support refugees to resettle and rebuild their lives. Central Bedfordshire is a great place to live and work – for everyone.