Buckinghamshire Councillor’s Report (end Feb 22)

£100k funding available to address health inequalities in Bucks
JOINT PRESS RELEASE FROM HEART OF BUCKS AND BUCKINGHAMSHIRE COUNCIL    Charities and community groups across Buckinghamshire can now apply for grant funding for projects that address avoidable and systematic differences in health through the Health Equity Fund. Funded by Buckinghamshire Council, in partnership with Heart of Bucks, the purpose of the Health Equity Fund is to address health inequalities that impact the life expectancy and quality of life for people from ethnic minority groups across Buckinghamshire. Health inequalities can involve differences such as prevalence of health conditions, access to care, and behavioural risks to health. Some of the ways in which these inequalities can impact on health are evident from national data published by the NHS Race and Health Observatory, including: In the UK, Black women are four times more likely than white women to die in pregnancy or childbirth In the UK, African-Caribbean men are up to three times more likely to develop prostate cancer than white men of the same age In the UK, Black and Ethnic Minority groups have up to 2x the mortality risk from Covid-19 compared to people from a White British background   Grants of up to £15,000 are available for projects that address inequalities in physical and/or mental health for any age group. Examples include improving advice and guidance, education and awareness raising, and advocacy support. Projects must be designed and delivered primarily for ethnic minority groups. For more information on the Health Equity Fund, please click here: heartofbucks.org/health-equity-fund-addressing-ethnic-health-inequalities
 
Could you Be the Change for a child waiting to be adopted this year?
Buckinghamshire Council is asking residents who may be thinking about adoption whether this could be the time they make the decision to Be the Change in a child’s life. At any one time, Buckinghamshire has more than 25 children waiting to be adopted. Unfortunately, some children wait longer than others to be adopted. We are especially looking for adopters for: Older children (aged 5 and over) Children with more complex needs Brothers and sisters Children from Black & Minority Ethnic backgrounds For those thinking about adoption, finding out more about the process and your suitability couldn’t be easier. Buckinghamshire’s unique Adoption Readiness Checker gives practical advice and creates a personalised plan to prepare people to take the next step in their adoption journey. For people who are considering adoption but are unsure of where to start, the checker acts as a quick way to learn more about the process, find out how they can prepare, and provides links to practical next steps. We need adopters for many of the children currently in our care, but we have a particular need for those who can enrich the cultural and ethnic heritage of the children they care for and support them as they grow  Anyone who has thought about adopting in the past but hasn’t yet put their thoughts into action, get in touch with us today. Find out more about the children who are looking for homes and how the process works. Just by picking up the phone or logging onto our website you are already making a change that could transform a child’s life. For more information on adoption visit our website: https://adoption.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/
 
 
More Bucks homes to benefit from funding to improve energy efficiency
Even more less well-off households in Buckinghamshire are set to benefit from new funding to make their homes more energy efficient following a successful, joint bid for central government funding. With rising fuel costs and the country braced for an announcement on an increase to the cap on energy prices later this month, the news will be welcomed by hundreds of households in Buckinghamshire, many of whom are at risk of being pushed into fuel poverty as a result of the increases. The BEIS (Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) Sustainable Warmth competition which ran last year invited bids from local authorities for a share of the available funding. Buckinghamshire Council joined forces with other regional authorities under the umbrella of the Greater South East Energy Hub (GSEEH). The funding allocation has just been announced and Buckinghamshire has received £4.9m to support local households. The new funding brings together two schemes to help local authorities tackle fuel poverty on a local level. The grants are generally used to install energy saving upgrades and low carbon heating in households on low incomes. Adding in the new funding, since October 2020, Buckinghamshire Council has received £7.3m to help improve poorly insulated homes in the county. Eligible home-owners can find out more about how to access the funding via the GSEEH website. The scheme will benefit both home-owners and those who rent privately. The new grant funding will potentially help more than 400 households in the county and includes properties that are ‘off grid’, currently using an alternative energy supply such as oil. For owner occupiers, the work will be carried out for free. However, for rental properties (whether private or social), the landlord will be expected to pay at least one third of the cost towards the work. For more information on the funding visit the GSEEH website. Anyone worried about their energy bills can access free advice and information via the Big Energy Saving campaign being run jointly by Citizen’s Advice and the Energy Saving Trust. It includes ideas on how to save energy at home: Energy advice for your home – Energy Saving Trust and advice on what to do if your energy supplier goes bust: Your energy supplier has gone bust – Citizens Advice 
    Buckinghamshire Council announces fresh support for local businesses
Local businesses who’ve been adversely affected by the impact of the Omicron variant can apply for a new grant from the council to help them get their business back on track.   Lots of local businesses suffered a downturn at the end of last year because of the impact of Omicron on trade. The government has given local councils funds so they can issue grants to eligible businesses in the hospitality, leisure, transportation and events sectors.   The funding available falls into two categories:   Hospitality and leisure grant – up to £6,000 available to eligible businesses depending on the rateable value of their property Additional Restrictions Grant Booster (ARG Booster) – grants of £1,500 for eligible businesses in hospitality, events and transportation who do not qualify for the hospitality and leisure grant. Due to limited funding allocation, ARG Booster grants will be paid on a first come, first served basis until all funding is allocated.   Businesses should apply online: Business grants and schemes | Buckinghamshire Council   Applications for the ARG booster will be open for around a month, but as they will close as soon as the funding is used up, businesses  are advised not to delay their application, which they can make from today (Monday 24 January).     The two grants are part of package of support for businesses announced by the Government at the end of last year. This includes some business rates relief which is also currently available for eligible firms. Please check our website for the full details.
Nominate your Bucks Batonbearers
Inspirational and active local community members are being sought to take part in a special relay to mark the run up to this year’s Commonwealth Games. The 2022 Commonwealth Games will take place in Birmingham, starting on 28 July. As part of the build-up, The Queen’s 16th Baton Relay is taking place with a commemorative baton travelling to all 72 Commonwealth nations across the globe in a 294 day relay. The baton, which contains a special message to the Commonwealth, written by Her Majesty The Queen, started its journey in October 2021. It will arrive in the UK in the summer and nominations are now being sought for batonbearers to carry it on a tour of England before the start of the Commonwealth Games at the end of July. The Take It On campaign is seeking to find 2,022 batonbearers, each with their own inspiring stories to take on the special experience of carrying the Queen’s Baton as it makes its journey across the country. People are being asked to nominate those who they think should be given the chance to take on this once in a lifetime opportunity. Bearers should be over 12 years old and meet one or more of the following criteria: Always willing to take on a challenge and has a unique and inspiring story Has made a meaningful contribution to sport, education, the arts, culture, or charity Is a figure of inspiration that positively challenges others to achieve their best Has taken on a challenge or cause and made a positive impact within their community Nominations are made online through the official website: Batonbearer Nominations | Birmingham 2022. The form is simple to complete but the window to nominate is fairly short. Nominations close on Tuesday 22 Feb 2022. For more information visit: Queen’s Baton Relay | Birmingham 2022 
  Funding available for local organisations who can give children a fun and activity packed Easter
Are you an organisation, business or local group that could provide interesting activities and a healthy meal for school-aged children during the Easter break? If so, Buckinghamshire Council wants to hear from you today!   Through the government’s Holiday Activity and Food (HAF) programme, the Council is making grant funding available to work with local providers to help deliver a range of free holiday activity clubs for children in Reception to Year 11 who receive benefits related free school meals. The children who access these holiday clubs are those who might not otherwise be able to get a healthy meal or participate in activities during the school holidays.   It’s up to you what activities you apply to provide, as long as they are activities that children and young people would find interesting to try and that would encourage them to develop a new skill or future hobby – or would just be fun to do.   Potential activities to consider include:   Drama and dance Sports and multi-sports Gaming and e-sports Photography Cooking or Easter baking Day trips to the cinema, bowling or other indoor leisure venues Fitness and wellbeing   All activities must last a minimum of four hours and new ideas and suggestions are always welcome!   Organisations that could provide these holiday activities can apply for a grant from Buckinghamshire Council, to help them do so.  Groups that could apply might be community and voluntary organisations, creative and performing arts providers, sports coaches, schools and others. If you can help put on a brilliant range of activities and healthy hot meals for eligible children over the Easter break then we’d like to hear from you!
Bucks drivers warned about law changes for using mobile phones behind the wheel
Motorists in Buckinghamshire are being reminded not to use their mobile phone when behind the wheel, even when stationary.  New legislation comes into force within the next few months and Travel Safe Bucks, the council’s road safety initiative is promoting the change in plenty of time, so drivers don’t get caught out. It is already against the law to use a hand-held device to send a text or make a call while driving unless you’re in an emergency. However, laws are now going to go even further to ban drivers from using their phones, for taking photos and videos, playing games and scrolling through playlists. Anyone caught using a hand-held device while driving for any of these reasons will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and six points on their licence. The change in legislation comes after a public consultation found that 81% of people supported proposals to strengthen the law and make it easier for culprits to be prosecuted. In addition to the strengthening of the laws around mobile phones, The Highway Code will also become more precise about the fact that it is also illegal to use a phone whilst stationary in traffic or stopped at traffic lights, as being stationary in a car counts as ‘driving’. Cabinet Member for Transport, Steven Broadbent, said: “Using a mobile phone whilst driving is an incredibly dangerous thing to do and puts so many people at risk. People think that if they’re stopped in traffic, it’s okay to send a quick text, but that’s not the case – you can still be prosecuted.” Research has shown that using your mobile phone whilst driving means you’re four times more likely to crash. Drivers distracted by their phone also have trouble staying in their own lane and managing their speed. To find out more about the new legislation, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/any-use-of-hand-held-mobile-phone-while-driving-to-become-illegal
Grants now available to all Bucks businesses affected by Omicron
Businesses in Buckinghamshire are being urged to take advantage of limited time funding to help them bounce back from the impact of December’s Plan B (Omicron) restrictions. Central Government allocated local authorities a “Boost” to the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) funding specifically to support businesses impacted by the December 2021 Omicron wave and Plan B restrictions. Initially this support was only on offer to certain sectors in Bucks, but from this week it is offered to any local business that meets the eligibility criteria. When the ARG Booster funding was distributed, the amount allocated to our area was limited and so to ensure the best use, we restricted applications to those businesses we believed to be most seriously affected by the impact of the Omicron variant. Since the number of applications we have received for this funding has been lower than expected, we have now opened up our criteria so that businesses from all sectors can now apply. The deadline for applications is midnight on 23 February. For more information on how to apply visit our website. Successful applicants will receive £1,500 per business. Hospitality and leisure businesses that pay business rates are still encouraged to apply for funding from the Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant (OHLG) instead of the ARG booster. OHLG is specifically for leisure and hospitality businesses and pays larger amounts of up to £6,000.  Apply online.
  Working together to tackle fly-tipping in Bucks
Buckinghamshire Council has joined forces with a local housing association to combat fly-tipping and support residents in disposing of their waste responsibly. For the past seven months, the council has been working with Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust in dealing with a number of small-scale fly-tipping incidents in our local area. In the first incident, rubbish piled behind bins in Hampden Gardens was examined by the council’s fly-tipping team. Letters and other documents within the rubbish led the team back to one a local resident who was issued with a fixed penalty notice. The second incident took place in Jenner Road, Aylesbury when a resident left an old bed by a garage block. They said they were told it would be taken away by a friend but it never was. The owner of the bed was also issued with a fixed penalty notice and given advice on how to safely dispose of similar items in the future. In the final case, a teenager was caught dumping a cabinet by some bins. When questioned he said his parents had asked him to put it there. The couple were sent a warning letter and also given information about the correct way to get rid of unwanted furniture. The Council will continue to work with the Trust to ensure that the ‘scrap fly-tipping’ message reaches more tenants and people in the local area. This will include installing new signage and providing information on council waste disposal services and also how to report fly-tipping incidents. https://www.recycleforbuckinghamshire.co.uk/scrap-fly-tipping/
Over 2,000 nominations received for Buckinghamshire’s Local Heritage List
More than 2,000 sites and assets have been nominated by local people for inclusion on Buckinghamshire’s Local Heritage List. Using funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Buckinghamshire Council is working to improve the quality and extent of its Local Heritage List. The Local Heritage List seeks to identify locally significant assets and celebrate their contribution to local identity and character. These assets can include historic buildings, archaeological sites, landscape features, historic parks and gardens and more. To date, over 2,000 assets have been nominated for Buckinghamshire’s Local Heritage List, including clock towers, road signs, post boxes, bridges and lamp posts, as well as the usual historic buildings, heritage assets and archaeological sites. The Local Heritage List Project Team is now seeking volunteers to help identify and assess assets important and local to them. If you have an interest in heritage, particularly that of Buckinghamshire, and some spare time on your hands, this could be something for you! For more information on the Local Heritage List or to register your interest in volunteering visit: Home – Buckinghamshire’s Local Heritage List (local-heritage-list.org.uk) or email localheritagelist@buckinghamshire.gov.uk  
Ofsted Inspection Outcome – Buckinghamshire Council Children’s Social Care
Between 29 November and 17 December 2021, Ofsted conducted their re-inspection of services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after, and care leavers. The report published 11 February 2022, says that Children’s Services in Buckinghamshire are no longer inadequate, but still require further improvements to be good. As part of the inspection, inspectors evaluated: overall effectiveness of the service the experiences and progress of children in need of help and protection the experiences and progress of children in care and care leavers the impact of leaders on social work practice with children and families Inspectors looked at approximately 350 children’s cases and reviewed over 300 documents and supporting evidence. They met with staff, partners, children and young people, care leavers, parents and carers, adopters and foster carers.  Cabinet Member for Buckinghamshire Children’s Services, Councillor Anita Cranmer said: “We are pleased to hear that the majority of our children in care feel settled and safe where they live. We have made considerable progress in our approach to children at immediate risk of serious harm and prompt action is taken to protect them. Our most vulnerable children/new-born babies are safely protected from future harm, either through care proceedings or through rigorous child protection plans.”

Buckinghamshire Council Cabinet makes budget recommendations ​ Next year’s spending plans and council tax proposals have been considered by Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet today as part of the overall process to set the 2022/23 budget.    The Buckinghamshire Council budget for 2022/23 has been set amidst a turbulent time for public sector finances, with many competing pressures such as higher inflation rates and the significant costs of providing social care. However, Buckinghamshire Council is in a better position than many local authorities; we are able to balance our books and commit spending to key priorities that our residents have told us matter most to them.   Social care costs are projected to rise by around 5% next year, meaning that overall the Council is budgeting for nearly £300 million in total social care spending during 2022/23. This huge sum means we can go on providing critical services for the residents that need them most but we need to raise council tax to help cover this cost. Last year councils were advised they could raise the adult social care precept by a full 3 % to cover the costs of adult social care. However, we chose to defer some of that rise until this year, to spread the burden for our residents over a longer time. It means that this year we’re proposing a 2% rise in Council Tax to cover the increase in adult social care costs. In addition, we are proposing an inflation increase in our general service costs of 1.99%. This compares to inflation of over 5%. This general inflation increase, combined with the special increase to cover the increased costs of social care gives an overall proposed rise of 3.99%, or £1.23 per week for the average Band D property.   This proposal is part of the overall budget plans that have been scrutinised in recent weeks and which have now been recommended by Cabinet, ahead of final consideration by Full Council on Wednesday 23 February. The budget was set following consultation with residents who told the Council which areas they wanted to see prioritised. It means the balanced budget proposal includes plans to spend money on key projects such as:   Continuing to spend over £100 million on improvements to roads and pavements Tackling the climate crisis including planting more than half a million new trees in Buckinghamshire, one for every resident Investing nearly £25 million in waste services, including vehicle upgrades and a new household recycling centre in the north of the county Cleaning every one of the 85,000 gullies in the county again this year Continued additional funding for litter clearance Adding to the funds available for rolling out high-speed broadband into additional areas Maintaining the Street Warden scheme in High Wycombe     Council Tax now makes up 82% of how we fund these services and given costs such as Adult Social Care are going up by as much as 5%, we simply don’t have a choice. We are doing what we can to keep this to a minimum and are implementing the additional 1% Adult Social Care precept that was deferred from last year. We also know that residents in Bands A-D will also get a Council Tax rebate of £150 as announced by Government recently, so this will reduce the cost for many households in Buckinghamshire.   Our budget is formed on behalf of our residents so we must include spend on projects they tell us they want. So overall, I am proud we are in a position to produce a balanced budget that still includes significant spending on improving our roads and infrastructure, improving our environment, and carrying on making Buckinghamshire the best place to live, raise a family, work and do business.  

Now is the time to start planning your Jubilee celebrations ​ Buckinghamshire communities are being encouraged to get planning their celebrations to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee later this year. The official public holiday to mark the historic occasion of The Queen’s 70 years on the throne, falls from 2 to 5 June 2022. The four-day bank holiday weekend is the perfect time for local communities to plan their own celebrations. From street parties to special lunches and beacon lighting to bespoke events there are many ways for communities to get involved. o support those who may want to hold a street party the Council is waiving the fee for temporary road closures, but it is important that people apply in plenty of time before the deadline of 6 May. See this webpage to find out more. On 2 June hundreds of beacons will be lit up and down the county to mark the Jubilee. Local communities can register to light a beacon. For more information, visit the official website. In Buckinghamshire, the council is supporting The Queen’s Green Canopy (QGC), a nationwide planting initiative which invites people to Plant a Tree for the Jubilee. The tree planting season comes to an end in March but starts again in November so people can plan ahead. Leading on from this, the council’s 70 Trees for 70 Years project is asking residents to nominate their favourite tree or woodland to compile into a list of the 70 best-loved trees. For more information on all the projects relating to the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, please visit Buckinghamshire Council’s website.

News release from the Boundary Commission for England   The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) invites comments during its secondary public consultation on constituency boundaries, which is open now until 4 April 2022. [Note: This public consultation relates to MPs constituencies and is separate from the councillors ward consultation.]
  The Commission is undertaking an independent and impartial review of all constituencies in England, to make the number of electors in each constituency roughly the same. The number of constituencies in England will also increase to 543. The 2023 Boundary Review requires substantial changes to the map of constituencies across England, and the Commission wants members of the public to help shape the boundaries in their area by taking part in a consultation, running 22 February – 4 April.   View the initially proposed constituency boundaries for your area and provide views on them by visiting the consultation website bcereviews.org.uk. Responses can also be sent in by letter, email or provided in person at a public hearing. The Commission will hold 32 public hearings across the country throughout the consultation period, allowing members of the public to have their say in person about the proposed changes in their area. Book a 10 minute slot to speak at a hearing in your region on the Boundary Commission website: bit.ly/bcepublichearings. A video of each hearing will be available to watch on the Boundary Commission for England’s YouTube channel shortly after it has taken place.   The Commission received over 34,000 responses from the public during its first consultation last year. These comments are now available to view by area, along with the initial proposals for constituencies, on the consultation website.    Secretary to the Boundary Commission for England, Tim Bowden, said:   “The 2023 Boundary Review will rebalance the number of electors represented by each MP. It’s important that the constituencies we shape reflect your local community as best as possible. We received over 34,000 responses during our first consultation last year which are available online for the public to read and comment on. We’re inviting more people to have their say in our current secondary consultation, which is open now until 4 April.   Help us to get our proposals right for your area by telling us your views via bcereviews.org.uk, or at a public hearing in your region. We’re looking forward to hearing your feedback, and we take every response into account during our review of constituency boundaries.”

Just days to go before Buckinghamshire Council hosts its first ever Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair! ​ The first ever Buckinghamshire Council Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair is taking place this Saturday (5 March) at The Elgiva Theatre in Chesham, with almost 1,000 attendees registered so far. The county-wide event will be a chance for businesses and organisations to showcase their career opportunities to those looking for an apprenticeship or job, as well as those who are looking to reskill or explore new horizons. Attendees will be able to meet and talk with 36 exhibitors, including: Aldi, BBC, Buckinghamshire Council, Greggs, Morgan Sindall Group, National Grid, Ocado, Papa Johns, Pinewood Studios, Thames Valley Police and The Army. The dozens of available apprenticeships and jobs include: Chefs Communications Engineers Lifeguards Port Operators Production Assistants Retail Supervisors Gareth Williams, Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Regeneration, said: “Our first ever Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair will help match employers with local candidates and will help our residents kickstart their career or get back into work after an extended break. “I’m very pleased to see that we have 36 employers attending and almost 1,000 residents who have already registered to visit the fair. Although we have limited availability left in the morning, there are still some afternoon time slots available, so please secure your place by going to Eventbrite.” Joseph Baum, Buckinghamshire Councillor for Chess Valley, commented: “Nothing is more important than ensuring that our residents have access to opportunities to enable them to get on in life. The high level of interest that we have seen in this Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair shows just how exciting this event is for local people – it is a great chance to meet some of the UK’s biggest employers and I look forward to being there.”  Ellena Stojanovic from the BBC’s Early Careers Team, commented: “I am looking forward to meeting candidates who might be interested in apprenticeships for our behind-the-camera roles in technology, production and journalism.” The fair – which coincides with National Careers Week – has been organised by Buckinghamshire Council with support from Chesham Town Council and Chesham & Villages Community Board. Additional partners for the fair include Buckinghamshire Business First, Buckinghamshire College Group, Buckinghamshire New University, the Department for Work and Pensions, Oasis Partnership, Chiltern Chamber of Commerce, Screen Skills, All Spring Media and Buckinghamshire Skills Hub. Buckinghamshire Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair will run from 10am-3pm on Saturday 5 March. If you are interested in attending the free event, book your place now by going to Eventbrite.  

Derek Town