By Martin Tett - 25th March 2020 8:00pm
These last few days have been incredibly challenging as we all make major changes to our daily lives to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. I want to start by thanking everyone for the huge personal sacrifices you are all making to help protect the people in our county in the coming weeks and months.
We really are all in this together and I know how strong our communities here in Buckinghamshire are — I know we can get through this, supporting each other as we go.
I wanted to update you on what the councils are doing here in Buckinghamshire to help residents and businesses — how you can get help and support if you need it — and to let you know about some important changes we are making to services.
Stay at home
Following the Prime Minister's address to the nation on Monday night, can I please emphasise the huge importance of what we are all being told to do. You and your family MUST stay at home apart from essential travel. You should only leave your home under very special circumstances, like getting food or medicines and travelling for essential work. This is so we can slow down the spread of the virus as much as possible. Please read the rules and the advice from the Government here and I want to thank everyone for taking this seriously to keep people in Buckinghamshire safe.
Changes to council services **IMPORTANT**
We are having to make changes to how our services run but please be assured we are doing everything we can to carry on providing the services our residents rely on, under these most difficult circumstances.
Like many other organisations, we are having to prioritise what is needed the most. All of our parks and country parks are now closed, and our libraries are all closed to the public. Some libraries will be opening as special community hubs for the vulnerable but will not be open for general use or for library services — more on this below. You can still access the library service online, borrowing ebooks, emagazines and more — check it out at www.buckscc.gov.uk/elibrary
We have also closed all of our Household Recycling Centres (tips) and we are having to make some changes to our bin collection services too.
I understand that you will have many questions about what to do with your waste and recycling as a result of some of these changes and we will keep you updated on this over the next few days.
You will also have heard that weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies have been cancelled and we will be in touch with those of you who have bookings with us to make other arrangements or to offer a refund where necessary. Registering births has now been deferred and we are registering deaths over the phone.
Please go to www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk for all the very latest information on our services and keep checking as the information is regularly being updated.
How to get help and support if you need it
(Editor): Haddenham residents, please also see here:
As I let you know last week, we have set up a virtual Community Hub — an online service where you can find out how to get support and help if you need it, especially if you are elderly or vulnerable. We have also been inundated with offers of help and people wanting to volunteer which is just fantastic — and it's through this Community Hub that you can offer your help under the 'Volunteer groups in your area' section. While we are all being asked to stay at home — and it's vital that we all do so — people who are helping the vulnerable are classed as essential and can carry on with the fantastic work they are doing to support people in the community.
Go to www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/coronavirus to find out more.
We want to hear from local volunteer and community groups too so we can grow our list of contacts on the hub and help match people to support groups in their local area. So please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you represent such a group.
Launch of local support hubs
I'm really pleased to tell you that the council is establishing eight local support hubs around the county in the following locations:
Princes Risborough Library
Wycombe District Council offices
Chiltern District Council offices
The Gateway in Aylesbury
The support is intended for those who have severe medical conditions, and who do not have access to family, friends or local support networks. The following government guidance helps to define who that may include https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19
These hubs will be coordination and distribution points for our volunteer networks — they are not 'drop in' centres for the public and will not be open to the general public.
I'll keep you informed about these hubs as more information becomes available.
As I wrote in my last email, I know that these are extremely challenging times for our local businesses, large and small. If you run a business, or know someone who does, we are offering support. Buckinghamshire Council is working in partnership with Buckinghamshire Business First, Buckinghamshire and Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership and the Local Growth Fund to offer business rate relief, grants, support and advice to help businesses.
For more information go to www.bbf.uk.com or get in touch directly — call or email email@example.com.
We know everyone is full of questions so we have been trying to answer them in regular video updates — see our latest update here. Please ask us your questions using our twitter feed @buckscouncil and the hashtag #AskBucksCouncil. As this situation develops we might use different ways to keep in touch with you and answer your questions but rest assured we will keep our residents updated with what is happening and what the council is doing through this crisis.
Local foodbanks need donations too
Many local people rely on foodbanks to feed themselves and their families and this is a service that is needed now more than ever. If you can, please consider donating to your foodbank while you do your own essential grocery shopping — just one or two extra items in your trolley would be much appreciated.
We are also working really closely with food banks and local food suppliers to look at how we can help the food supply in the area and we will be able to update you on that in the next few days.
Stay healthy while you stay at home
As we all deal with these massive changes to our lives and staying at home, it's really important that we still remember to look after our physical and mental well-being.
At the moment we can still all leave our homes to take outdoor exercise once a day while keeping a safe distance from others — or you can exercise at home or in your garden. There are loads of tips online about how to exercise at home, from YouTube workouts to the videos from the NHS fitness studio.
It's also so important to look after our mental well-being too. Being physically distanced from others doesn't mean you can't stay in touch and find other ways to have contact with friends and loved ones. Find out more about how to look after your mental health while staying at home by checking out the Every Mind Matters website.
Citizens advice and information
Every one of us will be finding this situation difficult in many different ways and the Council will do everything it can to keep you updated on how to get support, information and advice.
Citizens Advice also has some helpful information for anyone experiencing difficulties because of coronavirus and their information is also being updated all the time.
We will email you as often as is needed to get any new information out to you. In the meantime please stay home, stay well and look after each other.
Cllr Martin Tett
Leader of the Shadow Executive
Wednesday 25th March 2020