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.
It was lovely to see the Mendips featured on this week’s Countryfile on BBC1. What a beautiful part of the world we are lucky enough to live in! The downside of this of course is that so many people (and their cars!) are attracted to these beauty spots, posing a significant threat to the delicate ecosystems and ecologies.
No doubt this week you’ll have been busy boxing up the decorations and storing them away for another year. Let’s hope next time we dust off those baubles and tinsel, and put up a Christmas tree, we’ll be in a much happier place.
I found the festive lights in homes and gardens really uplifting. People seemed to have gone to an extra effort to make the season special. If you’re sad to see them go, there’s a stellar display you can enjoy, 365 days of the year, if you look upwards on a clear night. And it’s a sight we must preserve.
I recently heard a great term to describe the days between Christmas and New Year – Chrimbo Limbo. If you’re struggling to know what day it is, this will probably resonate with you! I hope you had a good Christmas and managed to see loved ones, even if it was at a distance.
As we approach another new year, it’s a good time to reflect on the past, and consider the 12 months ahead. Certainly 2020 has been like no other. At Mendip we’ve done our utmost to keep services running whilst also pulling together with our neighbouring district councils and county council, to support our residents through turbulent times.
It’s been such a tough year for everyone so we are trying to help where we can. Starting from today, Thursday 17th December, all Mendip-owned car parks will be free up to, and including, Christmas Eve. The free festive parking is to support residents, businesses and visitors in the run-up to Christmas and to encourage the last-minute shoppers to ‘stay local.’
We’re also supporting our Mendip market traders, by waiving charges for their market pitches throughout December. Mendip Markets really are such a bustling, distinctive part of the district, you can check out their seasonal opening times here: www.mendip.gov.uk/markets. Do pay them a visit if you can – and if you can’t, don’t forget you can find many of your favourite stallholders online, showcasing their produce at the Mendip website, listed above.
Those of you who regularly read this column, will know how important protecting our natural environment is to me and to Mendip District Council. I know it concerns many of you too as I frequently receive emails and phone calls about it. Indeed, one of our major priorities at Mendip is to deliver on our climate and ecological commitments.
This week at our Cabinet meeting, an important decision was made that will support and bolster our natural and ecological environment. A sum of £10,000 will be awarded by Mendip to Somerset’s Local Nature Partnership (LNP) which is leading on the Natural Environment workstream within the Somerset-wide climate strategy. The money will be used to fund a co-ordinator role.
Photo - Peter Bright
An exciting opportunity has arisen for the right person to join us, to make a real difference as party organiser in the Wells constituency, which is a key target seat nationally for the Liberal Democrats.
We have a prominent former MP, numerous local councillors and a strong membership with many committed activists.
We require a Campaign Organiser to be key member of our team, leading our campaigning in support of our goal to have a Liberal Democrat re-elected as our MP and to increase our representation on local councils.
Click Here for Job Description
I am a firm believer that in order to get stuff done – whether that’s to improve the energy efficiency of our homes to reduce climate change, or to support our communities during this global pandemic – we need to work together.
We are working in partnership with a parish council on a tree planting scheme to support the area’s flood prevention efforts. Up to 150 native species of oak, sycamore, beech, hazel and goat willow will be planted in the wonderfully named, Binegar Bottom.
As we find ourselves in the middle of another national lockdown, this week I wanted to make sure that all local businesses know that there is financial support available. Central government has again given district councils the responsibility to issue new national grants to support local businesses.
The first, a ‘Local Restrictions Support Grant,’ is a one-off grant for the businesses which were open prior to lockdown but were then required by law to close on the 5th November. These businesses include non-essential retail, leisure, personal care, sports facilities and hospitality businesses. If eligible, a fixed single grant will be paid to cover the 28-day period, depending on the rateable value of the business’ property.
As the evenings draw in and the days and nights get decidedly chillier, we were pleased to launch a ‘warmer homes’ initiative to tackle fuel poverty in Mendip.
Fuel poverty means not having enough money to adequately heat a home. This could be caused by having a low income, high fuel prices and by poor energy efficiency within the homes themselves. Nearly one in ten people in Mendip are considered to be living in fuel poverty, which is below the national and Somerset average. In stark terms, this means people having to choose between eating or heating.