Hope you are well and keeping safe.
I thought I would update you on some of the things happening and the new services set up by Wiltshire Council to help us over this time. Some of this information will already have been sent out to the Parish Clerks so please forgive me if you already have this. Please feel free to send this out to your members and constituents. Sorry there is quite a bit.
If you wish this to be also sent to whomever is heading up your Covid 19 support groups then please let me have their contact details.
First an overview:
Wiltshire Council declared a Major incident when the seriousness of this became known, the council is the first line of defence and after the NHS is responsible for the co-ordinated response all over Wiltshire.
All committee meeting are cancelled where possible, others are held by Skype, and the day to day running delegated to the officers so our response to circumstances can be immediate. The leader Philip Whitehead and the Deputy Leader Richard Clewer are the only councillors effectively working at this time. There are currently approximately 4,500 staff working from home. The IT logistics to set this up have been immense.
The council has set up a dedicated hub to support the most vulnerable residents during the ongoing COVID-19 situation based at Five Rivers leisure centre in Salisbury
Over the weekend a group of our amazing community-minded colleagues volunteered to help by contacting over 840 of our most vulnerable residents. They checked in to see if they needed food boxes or essential supplies and the 107 people who did require urgent food parcels have all now received them.
The Wiltshire Wellbeing Hub is available to anyone who is struggling during this difficult time, such as people who are shielding or self-isolating and don’t have a support network around them or know where to get help. The team can help provide support but also signpost them to where additional help is available in their local area, via the community groups that you have set-up across the area providing invaluable assistance.
People can get in touch with the hub via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0300 003 4576. It’s available from 8am-8pm Monday-Friday and 10am-4pm Saturday and Sunday.
The hubs open in Trowbridge, Chippenham and Salisbury will continue to be open for the following essential face-to-face services:
Support for the homeless
Adult social care
Children’s social care
Support for vulnerable people
The Customer Service Team will continue to support the communities on all other matters through the customer services number 0300 456 0100 (lines open 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday) and via social media channels. (Probably the best bet)
Information pack to support volunteer groups:
I know most of you will have had this information but I thought it was worth including.
The council has published a ‘COVID-19 Volunteer Pack’ to help volunteer groups support their communities during the ongoing COVID-19 situation.
Many groups have shared their way of working and this pack brings together a lot of their best practise in setting up an effective response, including top tips on setting up a volunteer group, advice on supporting those in self-isolation, and a range of template forms and useful signposting to other resources.
The ‘COVID-19 Volunteer Pack’ can be downloaded at www.wiltshire.gov.uk and can be used in conjunction with the Community Groups Directory http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/downloads/22069. which lists all the volunteer groups the council has been informed are providing support in their community. This directory will be updated as much as possible. Please make sure your group is registered so people contacting the wellbeing Hub can be put in contact with you.
Council Tax and Business Rate Payments:
To support people as much as possible during the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the council has confirmed that no resident or business in Wiltshire will have to pay council tax or business rates until June 2020 if they are struggling.
Any resident wishing to defer paying their council tax in April and May 2020 can contact the council and this will be arranged. Those payments will then be taken in February and March 2021 instead, as council tax is normally only collected over the first ten months of the financial year.
Similarly, businesses who also wish to defer business rates payments for two months, and not pay in April and May, can also arrange that by contacting the council. For anyone wishing to do this, the council will freeze direct debit payments, so people do not need to contact their bank to arrange.
People should call 0300 456 0109 or email email@example.com to request the deferral – these will be taken at face value and there will be no vetting of anyone wishing to defer payments for April and May 2020.
For those who choose to defer, payments will resume in June 2020 and will be taken over the 10 months from June 2020 to March 2021. For those that pay annually, they can still do so at http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/benefits-council-tax. Those that make manual payments can also continue to do this if they wish, but they will need to contact the council if they want the April and May payment break.
Working age residents who benefit from the current Council Tax Support Scheme will receive an additional reduction to their bill in line with the government’s hardship fund criteria. Those households eligible for this reduction will automatically be re-billed.
We are committed to supporting all of our businesses through these unprecedented times and will continue to work closely with Swindon and Wiltshire Growth Hub to ensure we deliver information and support to businesses as quickly as possible.
This week the council has issued a letter to 10,000 businesses who we believe may be eligible for either the Small Business Grant Fund or the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund. The letter requests businesses to provide information on eligibility so please encourage any relevant businesses in your area to return this to us as quickly as possible so that we can release the grants to help support them. The council has received the money from the government and could be distributing it as early as the end of this week depending on businesses response. If businesses have any questions about the letter they can email firstname.lastname@example.org for further assistance.
The Chancellor announced the introduction of a Self Employment Income Support Scheme bit.ly/SelfEmployedSupport
pay a taxable grant worth 80% of their profits up to a total of £2,500 per month. This scheme will be open for at least three months and grants can be claimed from June 2020
be open to businesses with average trading profits of up to £50,000 over the last three years. Only those who are already self-employed and have a tax return for 2019 will be able to apply. HMRC will contact these businesses directly
allow an extra four weeks from today for businesses to submit their tax return for those who missed the deadline
provide eligible businesses access to Universal Credit with an advance payment available almost immediately after the claim has been submitted
I urge you all to be patient at this time, the sheer volume of people seeking assistance is immense.
Rubbish collections – Our contactor is under pressure with 20% staff isolating and the problem of keeping apart a 4 man crew in the front of a cab so please understand if your collections go slightly awry.
Grass cutting – the council is only cutting areas that are a key or a safety issue. Verges will not be cut unless it is a safety sightline. It is probable that as government guidance becomes ever more stringent, we will be able to maintain less and less grass, for example in open spaces and cemeteries. We are having to scale back our operations to essential services only.
Garden Waste – The Council has postponed the renewal process for garden waste collection until 15 June, due to the pressure on council services because of COVID-19. Garden waste collections will continue, provided the council’s contractor has sufficient staff to maintain service delivery. Customers who have already paid for the garden waste collection service will continue to have their garden waste collected until 30 June 2020. Residents should continue to place their garden waste bins out with their red stickers as usual. The council will contact you in due course with details of the renewal process. Collections will continue from 1 July.
Finally, please keep up the good work. Your contribution and hard work in defending our communities has been immense.
I will keep you updated as and when. In the meantime keep safe.
Wiltshire Councillor for Till and Wylye Valley
Tel: 07775 508148