Ward District Cllr Dilys Neill’s Report to February 2021 Council Meeting

Council District Council meeting 24th Feb. I am writing this report just before the Council Meeting at 6 pm on 24th Feb which will be broadcast live via the Council’s Facebook page. This meeting is almost entirely about the 2020/2021 budget.

As you can imagine, this year this year has been very challenging in terms of setting a budget for the Council. the pandemic has resulted in a loss of income & increase in expenditure for the District Council. Government grants have covered some but not all of the shortfall, but the budget has been continually reviewed as money & data comes in. We have an excellent financial team, led by Jenny Poole the Chief Finance officer who has now been appointed Deputy CEO. She & her team work with Mike Every the Cabinet member for Finance to present a balanced budget.

Since 1997 when the Council’s housing stock was transferred to a registered provider, the Council’s capital & revenue reserves could be used to fund projects. This windfall is no longer available & the Council needs to borrow to invest in order to generate income. At the moment, interest rates are very low so borrowing is an attractive option. The Council will invest in projects which support its priorities outlined in its corporate plan. This includes socially rented housing, green economic growth, partnership with renewable energy producers & green infrastructure. Any major expenditure needs to be approved by the full Council.

The broad aims of the budget were presented for public review together with a survey in December 2020. Public response was in general favourable. A very large number of written comments were received, needless to say many of them expressed diametrically opposing views. For example, many people supported the aims of the “green agenda” to reduce carbon emissions & to limit climate change, but some people expressed that this was not a priority & was getting too much attention. You can’t please everyone!

The budget papers are extensive & detailed & are available online for your inspection.

Business grants. A further sum of money has been made available from central governments & this is currently being administered. It is a lot of work for the officers involved, & it is vital to sieve out fraudulent applications. The process is taking longer that we would like, but all businesses who are eligible should get further grant funding.

Council tax. Because CDC was well off following the transfer of Council Houses, the Council was able to freeze Council Tax for ten years, other charges were not increased for example parking charges & the green waste collection was heavily supported. The Council has increased Council tax for the last two ears & proposes to do so again this year. This will be at £5.00 for a Band D property i.e. 10p a week. The recent survey revealed some misunderstanding about this. Properties are banded from A – H depending on size with charges made according to the banding. A Band H property will be liable for twice as much council tax as a Band D property, a Band A about two thirds. The council estimates its taxable base as Band D equivalents, which for Cotswold District is just over 42,000. Council tax for Stow residents in Band D this year will be £1,979.44 p.a.

This is distributed as follows:

GCC                                     71%                              £1,409.22

Police & Crime Commission – 14%                               £  270.08

CDC                                       7%                              £  138.93

Stow Town Council                  8%                              £  161.21

Holiday lets group. The holiday lets group has now met twice & will continue to meet monthly. The main focus of our attention is larger properties, eight or more which are sometimes known as party houses. However, it is recognised that most of the properties which are let for holidays in our communities are smaller than this. The committee is looking at the possibility of producing guides for landlords & guests to advise on appropriate behaviour which respects the facilities of neighbours. These might include noise limitation, where to park, how to dispose of waste etc. Other suggestions of what could be included would be welcome. We also discussed one of the main issues raised to me by residents which is that the increasing number of properties which are snapped up for use as holiday lets pushes up the price of houses & contributes to the reduction in the number of families & young people who can afford to live in our towns & villages. But this would be a very difficult problem to resolve, although St Ives for example is a town where an attempt has been made to swing the balance towards residents.

Cotswold Crowdfunding – CDC has decided to change the way in which it distributes grants to community projects. As you know, each ward member used to have an annual sum from which community projects in their ward could bid for funding. CDC is now supporting the crowdfunding model through an organisation called Spacehive. This will be for two years in the first instance. Community organisations can put forward projects via the crowdfunding system. Each project needs to set up a web page with details of the project, explaining its aims & target audience with costings which back up the amount of money which they are hoping to raise. This then needs to be publicised in the local community & as money is pledged, CDC will look at the projects & offer support to those which look viable & whose aims the Council would support. The idea is to enable more ambitious projects. Spacehive employs staff to advise on how to pitch your project. There are further virtual presentations in the next couple of weeks which anyone who has a potential project, even if it is just an idea at the moment, is welcome to attend. There will be two rounds of applications for grants from CDC, in April & then again in the autumn, & then the same next year.

Flooding Following the significant flooding in the south of the District in December, CDC organised a flood forum which was attended by over 100 residents. One of the main frustrations expressed was the lack of communication between the different organisations involved & residents often didn’t know to whom they could turn for help. While Stow is unlikely to suffer from severe flooding, if it does we shall all be building an ark, standing water on the road where drains & gullies are blocked has been a problem, particularly when there was a hard frost earlier this month. Residents in Swell were also affected by overflowing sewers which is unacceptable. The District Council is trying to get the various agencies involved to work together to come to a plan, to put in place remedial measures during the summer months & to let residents know to whom they can turn in a crisis.

Planning & enforcement – Our planning officers are under a lot of pressure at the moment, each officer is dealing with a very large number of cases. This also applies to the enforcement team, there are four enforcement officers with 487 live cases. the current situation with the impossibility of doing site visits has created extra difficulties for the team. Recruitment for new officers is ongoing. We now have a very proactive CEO in place, Rob Weaver who works in conjunction with Jan Britton, CEO of Publica, so hopefully the staffing issues can be resolved.

Stow Fair will be upon us in less than three months. I expect that it won’t go ahead under current guidelines, but as there is constant change, I will try to get an answer by the beginning April.

Finally – as I say every time, the officers & Cabinet members at CDC are here to support the community & are keen to engage with Town & Parish Councils. You will receive notice of virtual events which are open to local councillors & please let Heather or me know if you would like help & advice from any of the team at CDC.

 

Ward County Cllr Nigel Moor’s report to February 2021 Council Meeting

Annual Budget 2021/22

Gloucestershire County Council has approved a budget of £483m for 2021/22 – an increase of £14.8m on the previous financial year. The budget includes additional funding of £8.9m for adults and £7.3m for vulnerable children. There is also capital investment in key areas like children`s services, highways and tackling the climate emergency, as well as planning for the Council’s continued response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Council will raise in the region of £7.0m to help fund services through a 1.99% increase in council tax. It will also apply the national social care precept at 2.76% to raise an additional £8.75 m. This amounts to a total increase of 4.75% which will result in about a £5 monthly increase for the average Band D council taxpayer. No increase is ever welcome but this will enable the Council to continue its support of its most vulnerable residents as well as investing in our infrastructure.

Rural Mobility Fund

GCC has been shortlisted out of 56 bids submitted to the DfT`s Rural Mobility Fund seeking £1.3m to pilot a demand responsive public transport project in the North Cotswolds and the South Forest of Dean. The Business Case was submitted on the 8th February and we hope to hear by the summer. The scheme will offer two fully accessible minibuses who will respond to demands for journeys that cannot be undertaken by existing public transport routes. The services will operate between designated pick -up points, such as existing bus stops or village centres. Feeder journeys will link to local interchange Hubs and train stations. Bookings will be possible either by phone or on-line via a ThinkTravel Journey Planner. The scheme will work in conjunction with existing community transport providers.

Shire Hall project scoops national award

The project to transform Shire Hall in Gloucester into an energy-efficient and sustainable building has picked up a prestigious national Constructing Excellence award. It now has solar panels and highly insulated cladding systems, which have significantly reduced its carbon footprint and heating bills and will ensure the building is self-sufficient over the summer months. Leaders of the county council wanted to renovate the existing building rather than build new offices elsewhere to support the city centre economy and reduce costs. The redevelopment has acted as a catalyst for the regeneration of the city centre.

Ash-Die Back Community Replanting Scheme

The scheme has had a very positive response from town and parish councils across the county. Planting in the spring will include nearly 8000 trees and 2400 hedging plants either by GCC teams or through donations to parish councils. In the autumn a further 7000 trees are planned. Regeneration is already taking place in the cleared hedgerow area with Blackthorn, Hazel, Sycamore and Field Maple growing from the seed base in the soil. It is estimated that a further 1,500 trees will come from this source.

PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE HORSES

COMMUNITY ALERT FROM GLOUCESTERSHIRE POLICE

It has been reported to Police that members of the public are feeding horses in fields around Stow On The Wold. This has caused the horses to become ill and require the services of Vet.

Over-feeding (feeding more energy than is used by the horse) on a long-term basis leads to obesity, which can result in serious welfare problems and can affect health.

Horses are naturally grazers who eat little and often. Their natural diet is mainly grasses, which have a high roughage (fibre) content.

The quantity of concentrates fed to a horse as supplementary feed in addition to any forage should be no more than that necessary to provide the required energy for the type and quantity of exercise performed or for any required weight gain. Feeding excessive concentrates can contribute to health problems such as obesity, gastrointestinal upset and laminitis.

Stone Stiles in Gloucestershire. Could you help discover more?

Did you know in the main in Gloucestershire there are three types stone of stiles – step, squeeze and slab? Step stiles are not so common. For centuries they have provided access across field boundaries to locals walking along ancient pathways as they went about their business. Despite the historic value of these stiles scores of them have been abandoned and some lost forever.

Stone stiles are found in many areas of the county including in and around Stow-on-the-Wold. There are examples throughout Gloucestershire of the three types of stiles, however step stiles are rare. Perhaps you might spot one?

In 2020 Peter Wilson, a member of CPRE launched ‘The Stone Stile Project’. Peter has extensive knowledge of the history of stone stiles but was surprised to learn there was no comprehensive record of stiles in neither our county nor apparently elsewhere in the country. In association with CPRE and the Cotteswold Naturalists Field Club, Peter’s aim was have a record of every remaining stone stile in Gloucestershire before they were lost forever. Through support from these two groups and other keen walkers almost 450 stiles have been recorded but it’s known there are at least 100 more stiles yet to be mapped.

When you are out walking, if you spot a stone stile, or if you know of an existing stile, please photograph it, if possible from both sides. Download a Stile Recording Form by going to the CPRE website, https://www.cpreglos.org.uk/creating-a-record-of-gloucestershire-stone-stiles/  Please give as much information as possible before emailing the form to: peter.wilson@woodchestervalleyvillage.co.uk

Any ‘duplicate’ stiles are fine as you may have taken a better picture than one already on file.

With the many sightings of stiles across the county, Peter has now launched Phase 2 of the project. He is seeking help on a voluntary basis from local people with an historical knowledge of their own parish; also historians, geologists and archaeologist. The aim is to create a comprehensive record of the history of the stiles before some are ‘lost’ forever. If you can help with the next phase or have friends who can, please contact Peter.

The information received will then be made available to develop an interactive App. for the enjoyment of everyone who loves the countryside. There is no doubt this will encourage more people to explore our wonderful county adding to their enjoyment of country walks. It will also help wheelchair users and families with children in buggies to plan their walks.

If you would like to make a donation in support of The Stone Stile Project please go to the CPRE website where there is a ‘Just Giving’ page and more details on the Project.

CDC form new group formed to drive Cotswold economic recovery

A new group has been formed to help drive economic recovery in the Cotswold District in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Cotswold Economic Advisory Group has been established by Cotswold District Council and brings together key institutions in the area such as Cirencester College, the Royal Agricultural University and the Fire Service College with business groups including St James’s Place and Corin Medical from Cirencester and the Campden BRI food innovation centre at Chipping Campden.

Key partners such as Gfirst LEP and the Federation of Small Businesses are also involved.

The Group will oversee the implementation of the District’s Green Economic Growth Strategy which was adopted by the Council in December last year and shows its commitment to supporting business and growing the local economy in a sustainable way.

It is chaired by Northleach resident and business owner Alan Richell, who has had a long career in both the public and private sectors.

He said: “I am delighted to take on this role and help the local economy grow and take advantage of the many opportunities that exist.

“The Cotswold economy has a lot going for it and we may not have shouted about it enough in the past. This Group will help to put that right and really drive progress in this area.”

Cllr Tony Dale, Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills at Cotswold District Council, added: “The Council’s administration is committed to the sustainable growth of the local economy and the adoption of the Green Economic Growth Strategy is testament to that.

“We can’t deliver it on our own and that’s why bringing our key partners together around the table is so important. I’m grateful that so many influential people and organisations have agreed to join the group and I’m sure it will have a really positive impact.”

The Group convened for the first time last week in a virtual form and will meet regularly over the coming months.

New rapid, regular Covid 19 testing site to open in Cirencester

10 Feb 2021
New rapid, regular testing site to open in Cirencester

The county’s second COVID-19 community testing site will open in Cirencester on 17 February – the facility will use Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs) to provide rapid, regular testing for people with no symptoms.
The new community testing centre will be located at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) – the site where Gloucestershire piloted its first rapid testing facility using LFDs, at the end of last year. RAU will be one of two centres in the
county set up to help prevent people unknowingly spreading the virus.
LFDs are designed for people not showing any symptoms (asymptomatic). The LDF test, which should be taken twice a week, only takes a few minutes and results are known within 30 mins, which means anyone who tests positive, can take action quickly to help protect others.
Whilst the country remains in lockdown, LFD testing continues to be offered mainly to those who, for work or caring responsibilities still have to leave the house. This includes people who both live and work in Cirencester and the surrounding area. People who are clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to shield.
The county’s first neighbourhood testing facility opened in January at the Friendship Café in Gloucester, in a bid to lower cases of Covid in the city where rates were high. To date, more than 2,000 tests have been carried out at the Gloucester facility with 19 positive results.
Sarah Scott, Executive Director of Adult Social Care and Public Health at Gloucestershire County Council, said: “LFD testing can help to identify cases of Covid in people with no symptoms – cases that we might not otherwise know about. Whilst a negative test does not 100 per cent mean that a person doesn’t have the virus, the test tends to catch people when they are most infectious, helping prevent the spread to others.
“It’s important to remember that a LFD test does not mean that you can stop following the rules around hands, face and space. We all need to keep doing all we can to help stop Covid in its tracks; to protect the NHS; to protect each other.”
Plans for a third community testing site to open in March in the Forest of Dean are in progress and details, including the new location, will be published shortly.
The Gloucester testing site is open 8am – 7pm Monday to Friday and 10am to
4pm on Saturday and Sunday. The centre at the RAU will operate 8am – 6pm Tuesday to Friday and 10am – 4pm Saturday, closed on Sunday and Monday.
You must book an appointment – you will not be tested if you turn up without one. Please note you will be able book a test at the Cirencester site from Monday 15 February. For more information on LFD testing visit the county council’s dedicated testing web page.
People who display one or more of the main three symptoms of Covid: a high temperature, a new and continuous cough or loss or change in sense of taste and smell should continue to isolate immediately and book a test at Hempsted Meadows PCR testing facility, the new walk in site in Cheltenham or at one of the county’s mobile units, using the national testing portal.

Covid Breach – Donnington

Covid Breach Donnington

Two males from Birmingham have been stopped and checked in Donnington and found to in breach of currently Covid-19 regulations, for non-essential travel.

Both have been reported and issued Covid-19 fixed penalty notices of £200 each and sent on their way.

Many thanks,
PC 2201 Nick Westmacott

Message Sent By
Nicholas Westmacott (Police, PC, Cirencester)
_

CDC accelerates provision of social rented and affordable homes for local people

Cotswold District Council has adopted a new Affordable Housing Delivery Strategy that will boost the provision of affordable and social rented housing for people in the Cotswolds.

This new strategy will see the Council increasing its partnership work with Registered Providers to deliver additional social rented housing and actively encouraging carbon neutral or low carbon homes for people on low incomes.

Cllr Lisa Spivey, Cabinet Member for Housing, says this is a big step forward for the Council to deliver on its housing priorities and help increase the delivery of affordable homes for local people.

Cllr Spivey, said: “With the Council’s new Affordable Housing Delivery Strategy, we are taking the lead on delivering truly affordable homes to meet the needs of the District. Not only will this strategy increase the delivery of social rented homes, but it will also provide support for young people through ‘rent to buy’ schemes.

“Our efforts to tackle the housing affordability crisis, climate emergency and the post-Covid economic challenges are key to ensuring that the Cotswolds remains a place where all its residents can thrive. It’s a challenge, but one that we are ready to take head-on.”

In addition to working with local housing associations to deliver rural exception sites, the Council wants to promote innovative alternative methods of providing rural affordable housing such as encouraging community-led housing approaches.

This includes working with Community Land Trusts through the Council’s Community-Led Housing Enablers and identifying opportunities for the Council to directly deliver rural housing, including through the use of its own land.

With the adoption of the Affordable Housing Delivery Strategy, the Council will now begin investigating which Council-owned sites could be developed or converted for social housing provision.

Decisions on initial sites to progress for social or affordable housing will be prepared for Cabinet later this year.

Cotswold District’s Cabinet unanimously approved the Affordable Housing Strategy at its meeting on Monday 8 February.

View the full Cabinet agenda and reports, here: http://bit.ly/3rc7YXP

Voters encouraged to sign up to postal voting for May local elections

Voters across the Cotswolds are being encouraged to sign up for postal voting at this year’s local elections which are due to be held on 6 May 2021.

By using a postal vote residents can make sure their voice is heard at the local elections from the safety of their home. Residents can apply for postal voting now and have to get their application in before the deadline of 20 April 2021.

Polling stations this year will have a different feel to previous years with COVID-19 safety measures being put in place in line with government guidance.

Even with a successful rollout of the vaccine, and a reduction in cases, there may still be residents who are concerned about visiting a polling station and they are being encouraged to use a postal vote as an alternative to voting in person.

To be able to use a postal vote in this year’s elections voters must apply to do so with their local council by 20 April 2021. Voters can ask for an application form by visiting the council website at cotswold.gov.uk/registertovote or calling 01285 623002.

A letter will be going to all residents in the Cotswold District in the coming weeks to check that voter information is accurate ahead of the election and this will include information on whether individuals are already signed up for postal voting and how to apply if they are not.

Jan Britton, Returning Officer for Cotswold District Council said, “Despite the great progress with the vaccine rollout we have to plan for the fact that voter safety will be a priority in the May elections and I would really like to encourage all voters to consider postal voting as an option for making sure their voice is heard at elections this year.

“Voting in person at polling stations will follow all the required safety procedures but we understand some people may still be concerned and postal voting is a safe and secure way of taking part in the elections in 2021.

“For anyone interested in voting by post this year they just need to make sure they apply for their postal vote before the 20 April 2021 and I would encourage people to sign up sooner rather than later so they don’t miss the deadline.”