There seems to be a whole industry collecting and supplying data in this country. My time at NHS Taunton/Musgrove Park Hospital, and now at Mendip District Council, has really bought that home. But if you want to inform decisions – or you want decisions to be better informed – you need facts and figures. Data can add to our policy development, measure progress and highlight issues that deserve attention.
You’ll find plenty of data in Mendip’s quarterly performance report, contained in our Cabinet papers. Some figures I would like to highlight concern our rough sleeping statistics, and the number in temporary accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts.
Every year, around 1,600 households present to Mendip District Council with a housing issue and just under half are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It’s common knowledge that housing need outstrips supply. Rents are going up more quickly than the housing costs element of benefits – this means options can be very limited.
Homelessness prevention and early intervention are key, as is partnership working with other councils, agencies and organisations. It's about empowering people to remain in their home for the long term, or at least remain there until a planned move is made.
I believe many of us realise that we can’t leave it to others, we all have a part to play to improve our environment.
My parish council for example has encouraged tree planting and replacement for many years. All planning applications for tree felling in its conservation area receive a letter from the parish council to ask they replant a native tree. Local residents have started a tree nursery to provide replacements to the many dying Ash trees, and offer advice on appropriate species. The importance of trees cannot be under-estimated. Many experts believe they are key to tackling the effects of climate change, due to their extraordinary ability to take carbon out of the atmosphere.
It is the perfect time of year to look back on the previous year and contemplate the year ahead.
If you are a regular reader of this column, you will have heard about the range and breadth of district council services in Mendip.
So, rain or shine – or indeed pandemic – your council has been delivering all year. From administering Covid supporting business grants, to transforming our campus into a makeshift vaccination hub. Mendip staff have worked alongside our NHS colleagues and volunteers to deliver life-saving jabs.
As part of Mendip’s Covid support we offered numerous incentives to help our local economy bounce back. We’ve given rent breaks to our Mendip Market stallholders and provided free parking to residents this Christmas to encourage foot fall to our city and towns. We helped businesses during various closures, and have been there for them to help them re-open safely again.
We believe everyone has a right to a place they can call home. That’s why we are proud that two social housing projects have planning papers submitted. In North Parade, Frome and Cemetery Lane, in Street. The first schemes of their kind in the district for two decades. 2022 could provide the keys to a new home – and a new life – for some, thanks to this important housing development programme.
It seems remarkable that another year has nearly gone, and sad that we are once again in the midst of yet another phase of Covid at a time when we should all be enjoying Christmas festivities. It’s been a frightening and challenging time for many, and in Mendip we will continue to try to do all we can to support our residents through these difficult times.
The work of your Council carries on through the holiday season and this week we have adopted the second part of our Local Plan (Local Plan Part 2, or LPP2) that will shape the future of development in our area.
As many of us rush around getting ready for the Christmas holidays, buying last minute gifts and making preparations to spend time with loved ones, I know others will be struggling to cope when it comes to their mental and emotional health.
The seemingly endless Covid news will certainly not be helping – with rates across the country soaring, and the threat of new lockdowns and restrictions looming over us, it really does seem to be going on forever.
With this in mind, I wanted this week to shine a light on the work we do at Mendip to support people who are struggling emotionally.
One of the Council’s key priorities is to help make Mendip greener and cleaner. It runs through everything we do. But we know it’s not enough just to say it. We must also take action. We must ‘walk the talk’.
Only by working together with our residents, businesses, our partners and staff, can we encourage behaviour change and reduce our carbon emissions. Which is why I am happy to share some great news with you regarding the Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP).
s Storm Arwen raged across the country at the weekend, causing the worst storm damage in 20 years, we have been relatively lucky in Mendip to have escaped the heavy snow and damaging winds. However, temperatures have most certainly dropped - which has sparked our Severe Weather Emergency Provision, known as SWEP.
SWEP is there to help people who find themselves rough sleeping in severe weather conditions such as freezing temperatures, heavy winds, rain and snow. And also at times of other weather extremes, such as a heatwave or other extreme conditions.
Emergency accommodation is provided to create safe spaces for rough sleepers to leave the streets and take shelter. Mendip District Council funds our excellent partners at the Elim Connect Centre in Wells. Their outreach team assists rough sleepers in the area when temperatures are expected to drop below zero (or reach excessive heat) for three consecutive nights.