Local Government

Coronavirus Update from Vale of White Horse District Council

May 23, 2020

Hello from Hayleigh & Sarah

Hello! On what is now the third bank holiday weekend in recent months, we hope that you are keeping well and able to enjoy the weekend whilst staying safe. Although the lockdown restrictions have eased slightly since our last update, this means that is more important than ever to take care when you are out and about, being mindful of keeping a safe distance from others and still staying home as much as possible. There is more specific guidance on what you can and cannot do on the government’s Coronavirus FAQ webpage. As everyone adjusts to the “new normal”, note that there is still support available for those who need it. We are currently helping our fantastic local community volunteer groups to investigate more longer-term funding for their activities, so that they can continue to provide help as required. The council’s own Community Support Team continues to run their support line for anyone in need, including over the bank holiday: call 01235 422 600 or email communitysupport@southandvale.gov.uk.

Remember, for the most up-to-date coronavirus information relating to district council support and any changes to services, please take a look at the dedicated Vale webpage for updates: www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/covid19

Waste Collections

A reminder that all of the Vale’s waste collection services are once again up and running, and that Oxfordshire’s recycling centres have also now re-opened to the public. Changes to your bin collection days as a result of the bank holiday are on the table below and the following website: whitehorsedc.gov.uk/bankholiday

Business Support

New discretionary grants scheme

The new discretionary grants scheme recently announced by the government will only provide an extra five per cent of funding on top of the money received in the first round of COVID-19 business grants in April. This means that unfortunately it will not provide anywhere near enough cash to support the vast majority of businesses in southern Oxfordshire affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have received the details of the government’s new discretionary business grants scheme and are currently pulling together a list of businesses that fit the detailed criteria. In line with government guidelines, we are aiming to release funds at the beginning of June and are working at pace to develop an online application based on the prescribed eligibility criteria.  This may take a short while to set up, but will ensure the process is quicker and easier and speeds up decision making so we can make payments to successful applicants without delay. Our business support team will provide ongoing support and guidance to any businesses that aren’t successful in applying for this scheme – this will include signposting them to the government’s COVID-19 loan scheme, which can be processed and paid out very quickly.

If you have any questions, please email the Business Support team: business.support@southandvale.gov.uk

Free webinar for businesses in South and Vale

We have partnered with Graham Ballantyne, Director of the UK Business Mentoring Group, to deliver a free webinar on Thursday to help local businesses with their recovery plans. The webinar will include lots of tips and pointers, along with useful templates, and complementary mentoring sessions. You can find out more information on the South and Vale Business Support website. We’ve also heard that the next Pop-Up business school for Oxfordshire is taking place online in June. There’s more information here.

The South & Vale Business Support team stays up-to-date on the latest government advice and support, and can advise on rates relief and business support grants. Visit their website for the latest info and to sign up for their e-newsletter: svbs.co.uk, and follow them on Twitter @TeamSVBS.

Council Tax

There is no specific update on council tax this time. Where possible, you should continue to pay your bills as normal.  Residents who are currently not being paid, and are struggling to pay their council tax bill, are encouraged to apply for Council Tax Reduction – their account will then be put on hold for 30 days while their application is processed: whitehorsedc.gov.uk/ctrs

Council Matters

Remote committee meetings to take place online
South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils are to begin holding council committee meetings online via video conferencing from the end of May. The first virtual meeting of the Vale of White Horse District Council will be the Vale Planning Committee on Tuesday 26 May at 10.30am.

Councillors will use Microsoft Teams to take part in the meetings and members of the public will be able to watch online via a link which will be published alongside the meeting agenda on the councils’ websites five working days prior to the meeting.  The councils will also publish the link to each meeting via their Facebook and Twitter pages. For details on how members of the public can submit statements or questions to be considered by a committee or council meeting please visit whitehorsedc.gov.uk/meetings.

Once councillors and officers have got used to the new process and are confident that meetings can be carried out effectively and within the guidelines, the councils will look to introduce online public participation by live video. Following the COVID-19 outbreak and the introduction of social distancing rules in March, the two councils cancelled all their official meetings and acted quickly to focus their efforts on supporting local communities and vulnerable individuals. While the focus remains predominantly on supporting vulnerable residents affected by COVID-19, it is still important to ensure the transparency of local democracy and so the councils have now put in place measures to ensure that meetings can take place again.

Local News

County Council cycle projects

The County Council has launched a newsletter on its Science Vale Cycle Network Project (SVCN), which you can sign up to receive monthly updates about. The first of these projects is to construct a cycle route between Wantage and Harwell Campus, and this is due to start next week on 26 May.  This project will be featured in the newsletter, which will also provide updates on other routes as projects progress. To sign up to the newsletter head to the county council’s transport bulletins page and chose Science Vale Cycle Network from the list – you can sign up for updates on other transport projects too.

Take care, stay safe, stay home!

We will endeavour to keep you updated on the council’s response to the Coronavirus COVID-19 through future newsletters and our dedicated councillor Facebook Page: Cllrs Hayleigh Gascoigne & Sarah Medley. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with any issues or concerns – our email addresses are hayleigh.gascoigne@whitehorsedc.gov.uk and sarah.medley@whitehorsedc.gov.uk.

Coronavirus Update from Oxfordshire County Council

March 30, 2020

Before I start this report I must applaud the work done by the volunteer groups working in the parishes, towns and cities throughout the County and beyond, who have sprung into action during this emergency to ensure the elderly and vulnerable are not alone and are receiving assistance when needed.

I recently attended the start up meeting of the Harwell Parish Helpers and was very impressed by their enthusiasm and dedication. All our volunteers are much deserving of our praise and appreciation and if you feel you can give even a small amount of support to your local volunteer group, please do.

These are unprecedented times; we all need to take care and follow the latest Government advice. Staff at the County Council are working flat out as we cannot simply close down or ask everybody to work from home, we are there to support and protect Oxfordshire’s residents particularly the vulnerable. We are prioritising our work and where possible staff are working from home. There are some areas that will see an increase in demand at a time when some of our staff will become ill with the virus. There will be some changes as we have to prioritise our work to key areas.

The main area of work in Social Care both adult and children’s has to continue on a 24/7 basis protecting around 7,000 residents. We expect the number of people requiring care to increase as informal carers become ill and are unable to continue care. This work is vital as it’s important we keep as many people as possible out of hospital.

We are working closely with the NHS to provide care and facilities for those patients that do not require acute care to be cared for away from hospitals or at home freeing up beds for those that most need them. This includes the group that we need to shield from the virus who are thought to be most at risk across the county.

The Government are shielding the extremely vulnerable approx. 1.5 million across the country full details can be found on the website: Extremely vulnerable.

Currently those people identified by the NHS as extremely vulnerable will be contacted by the NHS by letter, email, text or all 3 to say that they need to isolate themselves at home for the next 12 weeks. They will be asked if they have any help to collect prescriptions and food, this may be supplied by one of the brilliant local groups that have been set up. If they don’t have any help then they will be told to contact the council who will arrange a contact which again may come from one of the local groups. As you will see from the document these are certain groups within the population but there may be others that need help such as those in self-isolation which is where all the volunteers will help. If somebody thinks they should be on the list and haven’t been contacted by Sunday 29th March, then they should contact their GP or hospital clinician.

To assist in the logistics across the country there are Local Resilience Forums, we are in the Thames Valley Based around the Police authority area. These are where the blue light services link in with the NHS and local authorities to consider the high-level strategy. These then delegate down to the County to work with WODC and other Districts to coordinate the local hubs. The Government have seconded military planners to assist in the hubs which is where all the local community groups come into the local networks. This is about all working together to ensure that we do not duplicate provision or even worse miss a vulnerable resident

The organic growth of the community networks or hubs that we are seeing being set up is fantastic. These groups are providing some excellent services to local residents who are self-isolating or do not have relatives locally. It’s important that they are community led but we need to avoid duplication, so the County Council and Districts are working with Oxfordshire Volunteers to list them all and provide support where needed.

If you are approached by people wishing to volunteer, they can register at: https://oxonvolunteers.org/vk/volunteers/index.htm

Unfortunately, there are some cases of people taking advantage of the vulnerable residents so Trading Standards are working with the Police monitoring the situation and will take action should there be a need. Should you be aware of anything please do not hesitate to contact me.

This is a very fast-moving situation so please use the OCC, NHS and Government websites for the latest information.

I would like to say a big thank you to all the residents who continue to work to help us get through this difficult time. I will send any updates as they become available.

Above all please take care, stay safe and follow the advice.


County Councillor Mike Fox-Davies
Hendreds and Harwell Division