The Covid crisis continues to impact our communities. No sooner did I hear the wonderful news that more than 4,000 people had now been vaccinated at our council offices in Shepton Mallet, when word came out that Glastonbury Festival was cancelled, for the second year running. Both stark reminders of the highs and lows we are experiencing at the moment.
So many of our plans have been called-off or placed on hold, but the Glastonbury announcement was nevertheless a huge disappointment. Let’s hope 2022 will be a golden year for the festival, the fans, and the many Mendip businesses and charities who benefit from it.
As I mentioned in last week’s column, the Council has been busy supporting the government’s Covid vaccination programme. In addition to the medical milestone of 4,000 vaccinations, some 6,500 residents have now been contacted to attend vaccine appointments. Staff at Mendip District Council have been helping make those crucial phone calls, and assisting their health colleagues in the roll-out of the life-saving scheme. Our workforce is doing a great job responding to the pandemic.
The Council’s priorities, to meet the immediate national need, have been reset. They are: saving lives, delivering our statutory services and doing our part to sustain the economy and support local people.
To date, we have issued grants across 13 different time periods since the first lockdown to local organisations in need of financial help due to the lockdown. Some 4,000 prompt payments have been made, totalling £34m.
There’s help for our rural communities too. Farmers, landowners and rural businesses – if you’ve diversified into the hospitality sector, do check your eligibility for financial assistance. You’ll find all the details here: www.mendip.gov.uk/businessgrants.
Mendip has pockets of high deprivation. We’re doing our best to support local families experiencing hardship, easing the pressure by staggering Council Tax and Business Rates payments, in addition to our hardship funds. I was therefore personally shocked to hear the Universal Credit uplift of £20 per month is due to end on 31st March. This modest uplift has been a lifeline to families facing financial pressures. It’s unthinkable to consider cutting it now, when Covid is ravaging our communities. I wrote to the Mendip MPs last week to urge the Treasury to keep this benefit. Let’s hope it’s retained.
Finally, the Council marked Holocaust Memorial Day yesterday (27th Jan) which commemorates victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. A flag was flown at half-mast from our Shepton offices, and a candle lit, as the message was “Be the light in the darkness.” It struck me the theme of this year’s event was even more pertinent than ever.
Remember, if you or someone you know needs help, the number for the Coronavirus helpline is 0300 790 6275.
You can contact me either through my Facebook page, @Ros.Wyke, or via email: [email protected] I read all your correspondence, so do get in touch.
Written by Cllr Ros Wyke, Leader of Mendip District Council
Please get in touch either on my Facebook page @Ros.Wyke or you can send me an email: [email protected].