As we find ourselves having to make more and more changes to the way we live in order to prevent the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19), it has never been more important to come together to support each other. We’re already seeing so much fantastic work going on across the county and know you will already be involved in supporting your local community. Thank you.
In Buckinghamshire we are grateful for and proud of the work of our local communities. Like Parish and Town Councils we are working really hard to reach out, support existing groups and help people find the information they need if they want to get involved and help out. It goes without saying that Parish and Town Councils are vital to this.
The new Buckinghamshire Council
We want to reassure you that the government’s postponement of local elections to May 2021 will not stop the launch of the new unitary council. All five existing councils will be replaced by the one new Buckinghamshire Council on 1 April. Plans for this are well advanced and we are already working together to tackle the Coronavirus outbreak.
In terms of governance, the following arrangements will be in place from 1 April:
- All 202 current Shadow Authority councillors will become councillors of the new Buckinghamshire Council until next May
- The existing Shadow Executive of 17 members will form Buckinghamshire Council’s new Cabinet until May 2021
- The Council’s new constitution (its operating rules and procedures) will come into force on April 1st and new committees will be established.
- We understand that the Government are due to introduce emergency rules which will allow committees to hold virtual meetings for a temporary period
In addition, it is anticipated that the emergency legislation that is postponing the elections will provide that no by-elections will take place during the year ahead.
You may be concerned about what this means for your town or parish council. You may have councillors who no longer wish to stand. The first step would be advertise any vacancies locally and co-opt to the seat.
If you are unable to fill any vacancies in this way, Buckinghamshire Council will help by appointing to the seats, most likely with local ward councillors.
Staying at home – you and your staff
Advice is changing all the time. It is important we protect ourselves and others by following current guidance on staying at home and social distancing which can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
What we are doing
As you will know, the coronavirus outbreak is of deep concern to everyone in Buckinghamshire. We are working together with Public Health England and the Department for Health and Social Care to tackle the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak and, support our residents, communities, businesses and schools during this challenging time.
We are closely following government guidance to provide accurate and up to date information. We are well-prepared for these situations and have robust plans in place to make sure we can keep essential services running to look after our elderly, the vulnerable, children, and safeguard local communities.
As the impact of Coronavirus increases we may need to make some temporary changes to some services. This is so we can protect people from infection and use our staff and resources where they are most needed. Information about any service changes will be released to the press and published on our website www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk.
We know that some of our residents will still want to get in touch face to face so for now, we are keeping our main libraries and council offices open. We are also keeping our country parks open with no parking charges so people can get out for some fresh air and stay healthy.
Encouraging volunteering – does your neighbour need help?
You may already know that there is a volunteering cell that is working on pulling people together– this will be a critical part of Buckinghamshire’s Covid-19 community support hub.
In response to the many elderly or vulnerable people who are being advised to self-isolate we have today launched our online community support hub [18 March 2020]. This will help people to find ways to get involved or find support.
The page can be found here https://www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/coronavirus/
Meeting local need
We know people are going to need support with practical things like getting medicines, grocery shopping, or caring for beloved pets as well as dealing with the potentially difficult mental effects of isolation. And we also know many people will want to help and support them if they possibly can.
What the hub will do
The hub will make it easier for people to get help or volunteer. It will be a place where people can go if they need help or support; and also a place where people who want to volunteer can find out how they can best assist vulnerable people. The website will aim to link those in need with those who are able to support them.
What you can do
Tell people about the hub. As someone with local knowledge and contacts it would be helpful if you could tell encourage any local support initiatives to get in touch so we can put them on the ‘hub’. Including any your Parish or Town Council is coordinating. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Many people may be unsure about getting help from someone they have not met before. Members can play a vital role as a ‘trusted person’ and introduce volunteers they know to the people who need help in their communities.
People without internet access
We fully appreciate the community hub relies heavily on internet access. We are working on developing support through libraries and council receptions (the new council access points).We are also asking any vulnerable or older person who is self-isolating and needs support, or anyone concerned about them, to call the council on 01296 383 204.
We can fully expect the next few months to be a difficult time for all of us. But we have some great people, groups and organisations in Buckinghamshire. By pulling together we can help one another get through it, and support those people who are most in need in our community.
If you have any ideas or thoughts about how we can further support our communities please let me know.
Heart of Bucks Coronavirus Appeal
Finally, I would be grateful if you could use your networks to highlight the Heart of Bucks Coronavirus appeal. This will be going towards supporting the most vulnerable in our community, individuals and organisations such as foodbanks who are seeing a tangible drop in donations https://www.totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/coronavirus-response-appeal .
Cllr Gareth Williams
Gareth Williams, Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health
Do you know someone who could foster?
We offer full training, ongoing support and a generous allowance.
If you know someone who might be interested, ask them to get in touch with us today.
Buckinghamshire County Council
Visit our Web Site : http://www.buckscc.gov.uk
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