UPDATE – BUCKINGHAMSHIRE COUNCIL October 2020
Latest News & Information
This autumn half term Buckinghamshire Council want to ensure that families across Bucks, with children eligible for free school meals, know how to access the wide range of support that is available. Buckinghamshire has a strong voluntary and community sector which is active in supporting vulnerable families. Our ‘Helping Hand’ team can help direct people to the support that is right for them. This may be from the voluntary or community sector or direct from the council. If anyone is worried about food over half term, and not sure what help is available, please contact the council’s ‘Helping Hand’ support line on 01296 395000, and someone will be ‘on hand’ to help you. This programme is funded by joint support from the Government’s Hardship Fund provided to local councils over the summer and Buckinghamshire Council.
Martin Tett, Leader of the Council, said “We don’t want any child in Buckinghamshire to go hungry this holiday. As a council we are committed to ensuring that does not happen. We know how fantastic our communities are with supporting each other during times of crisis, there is lots of local support available. We also know it isn’t always that easy to know where to turn, so I would encourage anyone with a child who is eligible for free school meals and is worried, to contact us so we can ensure they can get access to the support they need. We are here and can offer that practical help, including links to supermarkets if needed too.”
I know it’s only a week since I last wrote to you but, unfortunately, we are seeing a situation of increasing urgency here in Buckinghamshire, so I wanted to update you again. The last week has shown another rapid rise in the number of cases across the county; we now have 87 cases per 100,000 people in Buckinghamshire compared with the 22 cases per 100,000 that I wrote to you about last week.
This means our rates have increased dramatically, quadrupling in a little over seven days.These numbers are changing rapidly so please go to our website for our latest data in detail. You can also see the number of cases in your postcode area at this link too.
I know that overall, the number of cases here in Buckinghamshire is still lower than in some other parts of the UK and this is relatively good news. However, it’s the fast rate at which cases are growing here that is the cause for concern. We do not want to follow in the footsteps of areas in the north of England. This would mean potentially the further curtailment of our personal freedoms, reduced ability to meet with friends and loved ones, and a damaging impact on the local economy and jobs.
At present the infection is still predominantly in young people but this is beginning to change and we are seeing it more prevalent in older age categories too. In the north of England, they are seeing hospital beds and intensive care units again filling with COVID patients and we do not want to follow suit. I am aware that this paints a very gloomy picture but I want to be sure that we communicate the very latest information to you all as often as possible so that you can continue to make informed choices about your activities.
So, I am writing again today with a clear message. Please do what it takes to keep yourselves and your friends, your family and your local community safe. This means following the current guidance in place for Buckinghamshire at all times. We still have a chance to get the virus back under control here in Buckinghamshire so let’s do all we can to reverse the current trend of this rise in infections.
Reducing the riskI cannot stress this enough: we all need to play our part. We are at our most vulnerable as we enter the cold wet weather of late autumn and winter. The virus is most easily transmitted ‘person to person’ indoors. Our best defences against this virus at the moment are distancing and hygiene. The virus passes extremely easily between people so please avoid close contact with people you don’t live with. Follow the ‘hands, face, space’ guidance at all times and protect other people by self-isolating immediately if you, or someone you live with, has symptoms:
Keep at least 2 metres/6 feet from anyone you don’t live withThe fewer people we see, the less chance we have of catching and spreading coronavirus, so please think hard about how you prioritise meeting up with othersWash your hands regularly and thoroughly, for at least 20 secondsWear a face covering where required unless you’re exemptIsolate if you or someone you live with develops coronavirus symptomsBook a test for anyone in the household with symptoms (call 119 if you can’t do it online)
What are the rules for Buckinghamshire? As you may well be aware, the government has introduced its new ‘3 tier’ local COVID alert system. Buckinghamshire is currently classified as ‘medium’.
These are the main rules that apply here:
– You cannot socialise in groups of more than six, indoors or outside
– Businesses and venues can remain open as long as they are COVID secure
– Businesses like pubs and restaurants must close at 10pm and must operate table service
– Customers in such venues must wear face coverings (unless exempt), only removing them whilst eating and drinking
– Work from home if you’re able and in agreement with your employer
– Wear a face covering in all places that it’s required by law like shops, unless you are exempt
– When travelling, plan ahead to avoid busy times and routes.
– Walk and cycle where you canIsolate if you or someone you live with develops coronavirus symptoms, or if you have been asked to do so by the NHS Test and Trace system
– Everyone should also continue to follow social distancing rules, maintaining a distance of 2 metres/6 feet from anyone you don’t live with.
You can read the full detail about the local COVID alert levels on the government’s website.
Advice for the clinically vulnerableI know that this is a particularly worrying time for those people who have previously shielded from the virus. The government has changed its approach with regard to people who are extremely clinically vulnerable and has advised that shielding is not needed yet, in spite of the increase in cases nationally. Instead the advice is intended to be less restrictive than the previous shielding programme and the government has advised it will only introduce shielding in the very worst affected local areas. This means people are only required to shield if they receive a letter advising them to do so. Clearly people should use their own judgement if they feel particularly vulnerable and they may wish to take extra personal precautions.
This government advice in part recognises the efforts to make shops and other venues COVID secure and, of course, allows people to make individual choices about how they go about their daily life.
You can check the government’s website for the updated advice to clinically vulnerable people and please also check our own Buckinghamshire Council online support hub to find out where you can access extra help if you need it.
I know I can count on the people of Bucks to make the right choices. No one wants to catch this horrible illness and, just as importantly, we all want to protect our vulnerable friends and neighbours so please let’s all keep going and do everything we can to reduce the infection rate here in Buckinghamshire.
Look after yourselves and each other.
Stay safe and protect Bucks,
Leader of Buckinghamshire Council
Update from Martin Tett
As you will have seen on television and heard on the radio, coronavirus cases are rising again across the country. This is particularly apparent in the north of England and Scotland, where increased restrictions on everyday life have been re-introduced. To avoid similar restrictions needing to be being introduced here I would like to offer some more advice and information. This is particularly important as we move towards colder and darker weather – which naturally makes us all want to stay indoors more.
While we still remain in a much better position here in Buckinghamshire than in many other parts of the UK, with lower detected infection rates than in the north of the UK for example, we are increasingly concerned about the rate that cases are rising within the county and in particular within the former South Bucks district area. So now is the time for us to take action. Pulling together and taking responsibility for what we do as individuals will give us the best possible chance of getting on top of this. If we don’t, we all could be in for a really tough time over the coming months.
Latest data for Buckinghamshire We now have a weekly case rate of 22.8 cases per 100,000 residents. This is from positive test results in Buckinghamshire in the 7 days leading up to 26 September. That is up from 16.9 cases on the previous week, a rise of 35% across Buckinghamshire as a whole. You can see this data in more detail, including the number of cases in your local area, by checking our website.
We are seeing more cases in some areas than others in Bucks. There are currently more cases overall in the Wycombe area than in other parts of Bucks, but more people live there. We also know that cases are currently rising more rapidly in the former South Bucks and Chiltern District areas than in other places. The former South Bucks District area has the highest rate of cases per 100,000 people, currently standing at 35.5.
To put these figures in perspective, all of these are far lower that many areas in the north of England which have rates of over 200 per 100,000. Our numbers are however moving in the wrong direction and we must not be complacent.
What can we do? We all have a part to play in stopping the spread of the virus. Our best defence is to follow the most basic rules – Hands, Face, Space.
– Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
– Wear a face covering as often as possible where advised or required such as in shops or restaurants (while you aren’t eating and drinking) unless you are exempt.
– Keep a minimum of two metres (6ft) away from anyone you don’t live with or with whom you’re not in a support bubble.
– Book a test if you develop coronavirus symptoms and make sure you and anyone else you live with isolates immediately (call 119 if you can’t book a test online).
– If you have a smartphone, download the NHS COVID-19 app which supports the test and trace system.
The more each one of us does to limit the risks, the harder we make it for the virus to spread. The available evidence suggests that the virus is being spread by meeting people we know, particularly indoors. I am not suggesting that we stop meeting family or friends or going out to restaurants, however there are some simple steps we can all take:
– Consider limiting the number of people you come into contact with – the fewer people we see, the less chance we have of catching and spreading coronavirus.
– The risks are much higher indoors. I know the weather has been terrible of late and we’ve had an additional battering from the rain and floods, but, where possible – can you wrap up and meet others outdoors instead of inside. For example, consider going for a walk with friends?
– Always stick to the rule of six – none of us should be meeting in groups of more than six people, including children.
– When you go to the pub or a café or restaurant, make sure you follow the new rules at all times by wearing a face covering, unless you’re eating or drinking and not mingling with other tables even if you see someone you know. Stay seated and move around the venue as little as possible.
– Some areas bordering Buckinghamshire currently have higher numbers of cases – if you go somewhere outside Bucks for work, to shop, to eat or see people, take a look first at what’s happening in that area. You might want to ensure you take extra measures to protect yourself and others.
Please think hard about how your own choices might impact others. Unfortunately, this is how the virus works. We all have a part to play in protecting the people in our communities who are most at risk from the virus. Our community spirit here in Bucks is incredibly strong, so let’s keep that up and look after each other.
Financial support if you’re isolating
If you are on a low income and have been told by the NHS Test and Trace system to self-isolate but you can’t work from home, you may qualify for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment.
Check our website to see whether you qualify and apply.
If you can’t apply online please contact your local Test and Trace Support Payment team:
Aylesbury area: 01296 585 858
Chiltern area: 01494 732 077
South Bucks area: 01895 837 515
Wycombe area: 01494 412 227
Stay safe, protect Bucks
The last thing any of us wants is for any freedoms to be curtailed even more because of this virus. We want to keep our businesses open and our economy strong. We want to carry on being able to see friends and loved ones safely.
To do these things we all have to use our basic common sense when going about our lives. Please make sure you’re all aware of the current guidance and what we all need to do as we try to control the virus and turn the current rise in infections back round. I cannot stress enough how vital this is as we move into winter.
We really are at another critical point in the pandemic so please, I urge you to take on board what I’ve written to you today, and above all, keep looking after yourselves and each other.
Leader of Buckinghamshire Council
The situation in Buckinghamshire
We are fortunate that at the moment in Buckinghamshire the number of new coronavirus cases is much lower than in other parts of the country. However, cases are still rising here. Our latest data indicates that our weekly rate of cases is 12.5 people per 100,000 here in Buckinghamshire. You can see all the most recent data on our website.
While these current figures are relatively reassuring for Bucks residents, we know that things can change extremely quickly – this is how the virus works. We have seen in other parts of the country significant transmission that can be linked back to the actions of just one or two people. Because there are more cases in the UK overall, the risks are much higher to all of us than they were a few weeks ago, so while we are in a good position here in Buckinghamshire, it’s now critical for us to pull together and stick to the guidance at all times. We want to keep things under control here, to keep enjoying seeing our friends and family safely in groups of no more than six, and to keep our businesses open.
The latest national guidanceAs most of us will know, this week the Prime Minister set out a series of new measures for England that we must all follow, regardless of where we live. Sticking to these new rules is essential if we are to curb the rise in cases. None of us wants to go into a more stringent lockdown and by sticking together on this and all doing our bit we still have a chance to avoid it.
Here are some of the main elements of the announcement:
From today (24 September) all pubs, bars and restaurants must close at 10pm. This doesn’t mean last orders, it means everyone out of the premises by 10pmAll pubs, bars and restaurants must offer table service onlyIn line with the ‘rule of six’, bookings will only be allowed for up to six people per table and tables cannot mingleWhere possible, people should now work from home in agreement with their employer, where they are able to do soPeople who work in shops and in cafes, bars and restaurants, should all wear face coverings unless they are exemptCustomers in pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants should also wear a face covering except when seated at a table to eat and drink, or if they are exemptFace coverings should also be worn by all taxi drivers and passengers unless they are exemptBusinesses, schools, colleges and universities will stay openThe ‘rule of six’ remains in place and will be enforced where needed. People must not meet in groups of more than six people apart from some specific circumstances like weddings and funerals There are now bigger fines and tougher penalties for both businesses and individuals who don’t comply. For example, people gathering in groups of more than six could be fined up to £200
You can read in full detail the national coronavirus guidance on the Government’s website. Please bear in mind that some parts of these pages are still being updated to reflect the latest changes, so do keep checking back to make sure you’re fully up to date.
Support if you’re isolatingIt is vital that if you or someone you live with develops symptoms of coronavirus that your household isolates immediately. You should also try to book a test for anyone who has symptoms – more on testing below. From Monday (28 September) if you don’t isolate when you should be, then you will be breaking the law and could face a fine.
There will be payments of £500 available to support certain people on low incomes who cannot work from home and who will face a loss of earnings if they cannot work because they’re isolating. There is more detail about this scheme on the government’s website and we will also provide more information about how this will work when the details are finalised.
NHS COVID-19 app – advice to residentsThe new NHS COVID-19 app launches today. This is the ‘official’ NHS Test and Trace app designed to track the virus and to bolster the Test and Trace system. People with smartphones will be able to download and use the app on a voluntary basis, if their phone’s operating system supports it. It will mean you can get an alert if you’ve been near another user who’s tested positive for coronavirus. You will also be able to log symptoms, book a test if you need one and will get advice on whether you need to isolate if you’ve got symptoms or have been in contact with someone who’s tested positive.
Users will also be able to use the app to ‘check in’ at any venue they visit, such as a pub, restaurant or a church.
The app works on an anonymous basis – it tracks the virus, not the user, using Bluetooth technology. You can find out more at www.covid19.nhs.uk.
NHS COVID-19 app – advice to businessesIf you run a business or organisation with a physical location that is open to the public, you should display a poster with a QR code for users of the NHS COVID-19 app to ‘check in’. This is really quick and easy to do – just use the link below.
This list of venues that should display the QR codes includes:
All hospitality venues, like pubs, cafes and restaurantsAll council buildingsLeisure and culture venues‘Close contact’ businesses, like hair salons and nail barsPlaces of worshipCommunity halls and venues
To make and print your QR code poster please use this link.
Vulnerable residentsAt the moment, the government has not changed any advice for residents who were previously shielding, so those residents do not need to start shielding again at the moment. I understand that this is a very worrying time for everyone, and especially those more vulnerable to the virus. Please take time to read the advice for the clinically vulnerable on the government’s website. We also have our information on our website on how to find help and support if you need it.
Anyone who is worried about whether they or a vulnerable friend, relative or neighbour can look after themselves can call our Adult Social Care Team on 01296 383 204.When to book a coronavirus testThe difficulties with getting a test have been well-documented in recent weeks and I thank all the residents who have written to me about their experiences. I know many of you are doing the right thing, following the advice, and trying to book a test if you or the person you’re booking for is showing symptoms. Please continue to do this if you have symptoms.
Unfortunately, although the capacity to carry out tests has risen significantly, recent demand has been higher still and there’s a national shortage of processing capacity at the national laboratories. This means that bookings have been capped locally to allow the labs to get through all the tests they need to process nationally.
New processing centres are being built around the country but for now, unfortunately, the best advice we can give is to remind you that you should only book a test for someone who has symptoms and that if the system is showing no availability, it’s best to wait and to try again. Test availability can become available at different times during the day.
I appreciate that this is far from ideal and I understand the frustration and disruption this is causing. We sincerely hope that these issues will be ironed out in the coming weeks and we hope that the new app will also be a significant step forward in helping to track the virus.
Follow the basics Our biggest defence against the virus is also the simplest. Please keep going with the three basic principles – Hands, Face, Space. Wash your hands regularly and for at least 20 secondsWear a face covering where it’s neededKeep a distance of at least 2 metres from anyone you don’t live with or anyone outside your support bubble, if you are in one
I know how hard this is, feeling like we are taking a step back but if we all stick by these guidelines then we give ourselves the best chance of making these measures work, and of getting the ‘R’ rate down without having to take any more stringent measures – which is what we all hope for.
So please, let’s all do our bit and let’s all look after each other.
As ever, stay safe and protect Bucks,
Leader of Buckinghamshire Council
Update from Martin Tett – August 2020
I hope that many of you are enjoying the opportunity for a break during August. Personally, I have had a couple of weeks Staycation in the northeast of England and have been interested to see how seriously people are taking ‘social distancing’ in holiday locations. It is good to know that so many people are still aware that COVID remains a problem and that we all need to ‘stay alert’ as we transition back safely to life in the ‘new normal’
The local picture
I’m also pleased that the number of coronavirus cases remains relatively low here in Buckinghamshire but as we can see from local lockdowns in other parts of the country and abroad, that can change at any point, so please let’s carry on doing everything possible to keep the virus at bay here.
Cases have risen in some areas close to Buckinghamshire so it’s essential we keep following the rules and keep up with the basics; regular and thorough hand-washing, wear your face coverings when needed and keep a safe distance from people outside your household. Thank you again to everyone for keeping this up.
If you travel to or have connections to areas where cases are rising, please be extra vigilant with social distancing and hand washing so that we can continue to protect Buckinghamshire.
You can find information on the government’s website about areas where there are special local restrictions in place.
Seeing others during the pandemic
Many of us are socialising more but it’s really important we all remain mindful of the rules and guidelines about seeing others. For example, if you go to a restaurant or pub indoors, you can only meet in groups with a maximum of two households – and those households should still socially distance.
For a reminder of the full guidance on meeting up with others, check this section of the government’s website.
Make sure you wear your face covering properly
We’ve had a few comments from residents who’ve asked us to remind people about how to wear a face covering correctly. It’s important that your face covering goes over both your nose and your mouth. This can be tricky for people with glasses as they can mist up but please ensure that the nose remains covered.
As we mentioned last time, the single use coverings aren’t recyclable so please throw yours away properly when you’ve used it. Do think about making or buying a reusable mask.
Again, thank you so much for observing the rules and wearing face coverings where they’re needed, such as in shops and on public transport. A full list of where you need to wear a face covering is here.
Also, bear in mind that some people are exempt from wearing them, and the reason isn’t always obvious. There is no need for people who are exempt to obtain special ‘certificates’ or pay money or make donations to obtain ‘exemption letters’.
However, you can use a special ‘exemption card’ to show to people if you wish to do so. These can be shown on a phone or you can print one out – you can find these on the government’s website in the section under ‘Exemption cards’.
Get a test no matter how mild your symptoms are
One of the most important things you can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to book a coronavirus test as soon as you develop any symptoms, no matter how mild.
It’s much better to get a test for a mild symptom and find out sooner rather than later if you have COVID-19 than to wait and see if things get worse.
A high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a change or loss in your sense of taste or smell; any of these symptoms mean you need to book a test immediately and stay at home to isolate. There are a number of local test sites in Buckinghamshire in the coming days (Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Marlow and High Wycombe). You will be told your nearest site available when you book.
Information on how to book a test is via this link: www.gov.uk/testing-for-coronavirus
I know many people have gone abroad for their holiday, or it might be that you’re overseas for another reason. The Foreign Office is still advising against all but essential travel to many countries, but there is a list of exemptions. You also need to know whether or not you should quarantine either on arrival or when you get back to the UK.
As many of you know, this advice can change quickly so if you are considering going abroad make sure you’re up to date with the latest advice.
Feeling low? There’s support available 24/7
|We’ve all had to adjust to a difficult situation in recent months and this has taken a toll on how people feel in many different ways. |
If you’re struggling with your mental health in any way, then please use the free helpline, available 24/7.
Adults: 0800 783 0119 or 01865 904 997
Children and young people: 0800 783 0121 or 01865 904 998
There’s also more help available on the Healthy Minds Bucks website.
Last chance to apply for coronavirus business grants There are just under two weeks left for Buckinghamshire small businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors to apply for coronavirus business grants. Applications will close on Friday 28 August.
We have already paid out £83.9 million to 6,399 eligible businesses, helping to ensure the survival of shops, cafes, hotels, restaurants and pubs.
If you know of any local business that may qualify, please tell them to visit our business grants web page for details about eligibility and to apply.
COVID-19 honours – who’s been your hero? There’s still plenty of time to think about who should be recognised for their outstanding and exceptional contribution during the coronavirus pandemic response.
These are official government honours which will be given out to individuals or groups for their efforts during this crisis.
We know that across Buckinghamshire the efforts of many people and groups have been heroic and it would be brilliant for people in our local area to be recognised. Have a think about who you’d nominate – maybe a key worker or someone who’s organised a community response. People have helped in so many different ways.
Take a look at the new COVID-19 honours nomination form on the government’s website if you want to nominate a person.
The deadline for applications is Friday 25 September.
|LOOK AFTER YOUR BODY |
Our physical health can have a big impact on how we feel. The lovely weather has returned and is great for a cycle ride. There are plenty of places you can enjoy cycling that are off road and many are also child-friendly routes.
|Worried about a vulnerable friend, relative or neighbour? |
Our Adult Social Care team is checking in with all vulnerable residents we are aware of by making many regular phone calls and by supporting in other ways too. Please tell us if you know of someone who might need our help by calling the Adult Social Care team on 01296 383 204.
Please also carry on using our online community hub for details of how to find support in your local area.
As ever, stay safe and protect Bucks,
Leader of Buckinghamshire Council
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|In this edition, you’ll be able to find information on childcare, school transport, VJ Day and recycling. We’ve also got news on Buckinghamshire Lottery, fostering, adult learning and lots more.|
We’d love to hear what you think of this newsletter – so please reply and let us know!
The Buckinghamshire Unitary Council commenced as planned on 1st April.
- All 202 current Shadow Authority Councillors became councillors of the new Buckinghamshire Council until May 2021
- Existing Shadow Executive members form Buckinghamshire Councils new Cabinet until the elections in May 2021
March 2020 update –
The elections here in Buckinghamshire, planned for May 7th, have been postponed for one year due to the Coronavirus outbreak. They are expected to be held on 6 May 2021. This will mean a delay for Bucks to get a new elected Council and for the 5 local district and county councils to join together.
The new Buckinghamshire Council Chief Executive, Rachael Shimmin, said:
“We are actively in discussion with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government about how we handle the year ahead and will consider a number of options next week.”
From 1 April, Buckinghamshire Council will replace the county and district councils that currently serve you.
The new Buckinghamshire Council will replace all five of the district and county councils in Buckinghamshire, and over the coming weeks and months you’ll start to see some changes as you come across the new look council.
What does the new council mean for me?
- The same services, better together. For most people there will be no change to the day-to-day services you use. This includes bin collections, looking after our elderly and young people, libraries and parking. The focus for the future will be on improving these services as a new council together.
- One council. Getting in touch with the council will be simpler because you’ll only need to contact one council for all the services currently provided by the county and district councils.
- Face-to-face advice, support and information from your council through a network of 17 local Council Access Points based at the heart of your local community – in current council offices and libraries across the county. The five council offices in Aylesbury (Walton Street and The Gateway), High Wycombe, Amersham and Denham will be ‘access plus’ points, geared up to handle more complex enquiries.
- Stronger links with local communities. Buckinghamshire Council councillors will work closely with local people and community organisations to understand and respond to the key issues affecting their local area through 16 Community Boards.
Who will be my local councillor on the new council?
There will be 147 councillors elected to Buckinghamshire Council. Elections for the new council will take place on 7 May 2020. Until these newly elected councillors take up their posts, your current elected members from the five existing councils will continue to serve your communities.
How can I find out more?
For regular news and updates, follow @BucksCouncil on Twitter and Facebook or find out more at www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk.