by adamboyden on 20 June, 2020
The Government has started to ease restrictions – see here. Government advice in summary is: Stay Alert: We can all help control the virus if we all stay alert. This means you must:
Help is available:
Anyone can call the Somerset Coronavirus support helpline 0300 790 6275 to seek help from our district and county councils on: personal care and support including delivery of food and prescriptions, homelessness, transport to medical appointments, waste collection and disposal, support for businesses, and emotional and financial support. Mendip District Council’s advice is here, including on how services have been affected, the financial help available, homelessness, and advice for businesses and employers. Somerset County Council is leading public health efforts in the county and their advice is found here. Frome Town Council offers local advice and support here. Please see Citizens Advice here, Mindline’s emotional support line 01823 276892, and Health Connections Mendip’s directory of local community and health support groups here.
Free parking extended as Mendip supports town centres:
Mendip District Council has extended the free parking at its pay and display car parks to support local businesses and key workers, for another seven weeks until 6th August – please see here. The Saturday market in Frome has also been reopened, and the council is supporting stallholders with a rent-free offer to boost business and help bring back confidence – see here. Mendip is supporting town centres in several ways as shops reopen (see here).
Temporary pedestrianisation of Frome town centre:
Please see here for details of Frome Town Council’s temporary pedestrianisation of Frome town centre, where through traffic will be restricted from Monday 22nd June for several weeks. This is happening (1) to enable social distancing in shopping areas during the pandemic, and (2) for FTC’s Market Place improvements to be built.
The Market Place improvements aim to make the town centre more modern and pedestrian friendly, with work to bus stops, bus shelters, pedestrian crossings, pavements, disabled parking and loading bays, and should take about 16 weeks. The improvements are explained here and here.
The closures will be from 9am – 5pm daily. Residents and deliveries will be exempt, and full access to all car parks will continue. The temporary road closure restricting vehicle access to the Market Place from its junction with Cork Street to its junction with Scott Road is explained here.
The County Council will also temporarily close Palmer Street, Catherine Hill, Stony Street, King Street and Church Street to through traffic, to enable social distancing in narrow streets. This will be reviewed on a weekly basis.
Have your say on council services:
As we move forward from the Coronavirus crisis, Mendip District Council is keen to hear from residents about where they feel it should focus its efforts – please take the survey here to tell us your priorities and help shape future services. A letter was sent to every household to inform everyone of this a few weeks ago.
Have your say on walking and cycling routes:
Frome Town Council has launched an interactive map for local people to feed in ideas for areas that would benefit from safer walking and cycling routes. This will help develop a plan for safer permanent or pop-up cycle and walking routes with Somerset County Council Highways team and Mendip District Council to enable people to travel actively and safely without needing to use a car. Please see here to have your say. There is a Somerset-wide map to add comments to also here. Please also let me know what your priorities are by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mendip District Council will be working with FTC and others on wider plans to improve walking and cycling across the district to make it easier and safer for residents to get about by bike and on foot (see here).
Connecting Stonebridge: new cycle path proposed to town centre:
One of the first improvements to come out of this initiative is a proposal for a new cycle route from Stonebridge to Frome town centre, linking to the hospital, medical centre, leisure centre and College, and the cycle path to the Commerce Park – see here. I will update everyone with details when available.
Cllr Drew Gardner issues a public safety warning:
Please see here for Drew’s public safety warning about 5G campaign posters across the Mendip area being allegedly laced with dangerous objects.
Have your say on electric vehicles:
Mendip District Council has agreed to procure more electric vehicle charging points throughout the district (see here), and is asking residents to complete a survey about behaviours and attitudes towards electric vehicles, to inform all councils’ work across Somerset. The survey runs until 22nd June so please take the survey here.
Mendip ‘goes wild’ on grass cutting:
During the coronavirus restrictions, Mendip District Council cut back on the amount of grass cutting in areas under its management. Recently a decision was made to allow some further areas to ‘rewild’ and enhance wildlife and biodiversity by reducing the frequency of grass cutting to twice a year (an ‘eco cut’). Safety, visual and other location-related factors have been taken into account. The decision report is here, I have a fuller report (available on request by email) and I await a map of areas affected, but I understand this includes areas of open space under Mendip’s control in the Stonebridge and Packsaddle areas. Please let me know if you have any queries.
Tree protection campaign:
A campaign has been launched by Lib Dem district councillor Barry O’Leary to promote the benefits and beauty of local trees, championing their preservation, maintenance, and community engagement in their management, to strengthen planning policy on trees and change council policy to a ‘replacement in situ’, with felling as a last resort. To find out more and sign the Village Ribbon Trees Campaign please see here.
Frome Town Council meetings update:
FTC’s next online meeting on Wednesday 24th June at 7pm (here) will also hear about the Missing Link cycle path project, improvements to Boyle Cross/Market Place (here), cycle and walking infrastructure and community renewable energy (here and above), flood risk management at Wallbridge (here) adopting the River Frome Strategy (here), and local government reorganisation (here, and see below).
Mendip District Council meetings update:
The last meeting of Mendip’s Cabinet on 1st June (here) discussed and approved proposals to reduce commuter-related car journeys (here), improving air quality by reducing vehicle idling and increasing air qyality monitoring (here), and the work of the Equalities steering group (here).
The Scrutiny deprivation working group (here) is working to help households in need by tackling fuel poverty, improving Council Tax support and hardship funds, and by promoting the work of Mendip Community Credit Union (here) to improve household financial resilience and reduce unafforable debt, and improve community support networks. The next Cabinet meeting is on 6th July.
Somerset County Council is failing children with special educational needs and disabilities:
A mother has called on the Government to take over the Somerset County Council service which looks after children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) “to protect vulnerable children from this administration”, after a damning report by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) described the service as ‘dysfunctional’ (see here). Poor leadership, a lack of cooperation and a blame culture were all highlighted. The Conservative administration at SCC now has to submit an action statement to the Department for Education. Details of the failings and the need to improve are also highlighted in the SomersetLive article here and the Ofsted inspection report here. Councillor Jane Lock, who leads the main Liberal Democrat opposition group at Somerset, said it was “hard to imagine a worse report than this”.
Somerset County Council seeks unitary bid:
At the same time as failing children, Somerset County Council’s Conservative administration are spending up to £1million preparing to submit a business case to Government in July in order to form a unitary council in 2022, which would effectively take over district councils’ services into a single unitary authority. Surveys of residents’ views towards disbanding all five councils will begin on 22nd June (here).
Before the pandemic, the district councils were working with the County to develop options for the future of local government (here), and preferred the option of closer collaboration without an expensive reorganisation. In a powerful statement (see here), the Leader of Somerset West and Taunton Council says “now is not the time” to ask people to engage in discussions on the future of local government, as efforts should all be focused on supporting residents and businesses through the pandemic and keeping people safe.
Nevertheless, Frome Town Council’s next online meeting (see here) will consider a report by former FTC leader (and former SSDC chief) Mel Usher which makes recommendations on how the role of parish councils and local communities could be improved in any reorganisation.
Waste services update:
All recycling sites have reverted to their usual summer schedules and are taking a growing range of materials. Restrictions remain on vehicles, materials and visitors to ensure social distancing and safety. Please see here for the latest news.
Annual councillor report:
To briefly summarise my work as a local councillor in the last year I have written an Annual Report for 2019-20, which you can find here.
Black Lives Matter:
Please see my views here.
Help choose the next Leader of the Liberal Democrats:
Liberal Democrat members will be electing a new leader this summer. Every member gets an equal say in choosing who they want to lead our party. To get your vote, all you need to do is join as a member by midnight on 9th July – please see here.
Build Back Better:
How do we build a better country than we had before the pandemic struck? A series of current and former MPs, MEPs, Councillors and members, all liberal voices from across our party, have written a series of essays on how we can Build Back Better – please see here.
Please let me know if there are any questions by email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
Please get in touch if you need any support or have any questions. Drew and I are here to help.
Adam Boyden with Cllr Drew Gardner,
Mendip District Councillors for Frome College ward
Adam – 07809284817, email email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Drew – email email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org