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.
Recently Chris Pincher MP and Minister of State for Housing, visited a park home site in Central Bedfordshire to see how we have invested £1m in government grant funding to improve the energy efficiency of older, poorly insulated park homes and reduce carbon emissions.
Having good insulation is one of the most effective ways to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and homes and help to tackle fuel poverty. The Minister was able to hear from residents about the difference the work had made with lower gas bills, warmer homes and less worries about maintenance costs in the future. So, I am very pleased to hear that another project is already underway to insulate more homes and that we have also just launched a new grant scheme for loft and cavity wall insulation.
In all our new buildings we take energy efficiency very seriously and both Thornhill Primary School in Houghton Regis and our new state of the art care home in Leighton Buzzard, recently named Marigold House, will be built to Passivhaus standards. A Passivhaus building has outstanding eco credentials and needs very little fuel for heating or cooling and will not need a conventional heating system.
Ultimately, it is our children, older residents and staff that will reap the benefits of living and working in one of the healthiest types of building it is possible to build which is both better for the environment and, better for the planet.
It’s been another tough year for our young people who’ve had to adapt to a very new way of learning following the disruption caused by the pandemic. Switching between online and face-to-face lessons, socialising in bubbles and taking regular COVID tests at school have all become the norm.
Despite the challenges, I have been delighted to hear so many success stories from pupils receiving their GCSE and A-level grades this week and if you are one of those students (I doubt any youngsters will be reading my blog but you never know!), I wish you all the best as you prepare to move on to your next challenge. I’m mindful that there are some of you out there who might not have got the grades that you wanted, or simply don’t know what to do next. There’s lots of free support to help you – whether you need help with writing a CV, guidance on applying for apprenticeships, or simply inspiration on what to do next. Take a look at the Council’s website for more info on these.
I hope the schools are taking a well-earned break this Summer. Most of our schools have remained open throughout the pandemic so I’m sure they will welcome the chance to rest and recharge. My daughter Sophie is a teacher so I know first-hand how hard teachers and other school staff have worked.
The school holidays should be fun but it can also be challenging to find things to do to entertain the kids, particularly if you’re on a budget.
Below are some helpful links to a range of activities or facilities in Central Beds that might help to keep your little ones amused and you sane!
It’s hard to predict what the next academic year will look like, but I’m truly hoping for less disruption for our young ones. One thing that is clear is the resilience of our young people, their parents and carers and staff in schools and colleges for continuing to adapt to these new ways of learning, and I am grateful to you all.