|30 May 2019|
Extra reminders to help people keep up to date with their council tax
Voicemail and email reminders are the latest measures being introduced by Swindon Borough Council to help people keep on top of their council tax.
The Council will roll out the new system later this summer and the email and voicemail messages to phones will supplement the text reminders that have been in place for the last few years.
It is hoped the additional reminders will increase the Council’s council tax collection rate, reduce the printing of paper reminders and, ultimately, reduce the need to take recovery proceedings.
In Swindon, council tax collections rates are among the highest in the country remaining above 98 per cent over the last six years.
In order to reduce the use of enforcement agents, the Council calls residents prior to undertaking recovery proceedings for non-payment. Those contacted are requested to make payment of part or all of the arrears or, if unable to, are offered a revised payment arrangement.
Phone calls and an increased use of text reminders to mobile phones helped to cut the number of summonses issued by 25 per cent over the past six years.
The email reminders will also include information about how to get personal budgeting and debt advice.
Councillor Russell Holland, Deputy Leader of Swindon Borough Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Education and Skills, said: “We want to treat everyone fairly when it comes to the collection of council tax. If anyone is having any problems paying their council tax it is really important that they contact the Council urgently so that we can see what we can do to help. The best way to contact the Council is by calling 03453 022 316 or emailing email@example.com
“We are also keen to help people who may be in debt or struggling financially and work closely with the Citizens Advice Bureau, Christians Against Poverty, the local credit unions and other organisations who can provide help.
“We have found that some people who were struggling financially were eligible for benefits and with some help getting those benefits they were able to get on top of their debts. It’s really important to get help from a legitimate organisation. I’m sad to say that there are loan sharks who target people in Swindon and anyone who thinks they may be a victim of a loan shark can also get help by contacting Stop Loan Sharks on 0300 555 2222.”
Media contact: Kevin Burchall, Communications Lead – Media Relations, Swindon Borough Council, 01793 463105.
Fly tippers beware – Swindon Borough Council will this year be stepping up enforcement activity to catch people illegally dumping waste.
The renewed focus on tackling fly tipping is part of the Council’s promise to ensure the streets are kept clean and safe for residents.
Last year, the Council received 1,726 reports of fly tipping from members of the public. But it is often difficult to prosecute the culprits due to the ability in many cases to identify them.
The Council’s EnviroCrime team has, however, had some success in identifying suspected offenders and obtaining clear ups by residents, which has resulted in fly tipping being removed without prosecutions taking place.
Limited evidence means that residential clear ups are often more appropriate solutions than court action and they result in the waste being removed without additional cost to the Council.
This year, however, the Council will be stepping up its enforcement activity in known fly tipping hotspots with the aim of securing prosecutions, if appropriate. In support of this, there will be an increase in the size of the Council’s EnviroCrime Team so that more staff are available to tackle the problem.
There will also be an anti-fly tipping campaign that aims to inform residents about how to dispose of waste in a responsible way.
Councillor Maureen Penny, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and the Environment, said: “We respond to all incidents of fly tipping that are reported to us, but in order to prosecute we need to have the appropriate evidence.
“It is notoriously difficult to prosecute people for fly tipping because it can be very hard to identify those responsible, which is also the case when seeking to issue cautions and Fixed Penalty Notices.
“But it is important that people know that this year we will be making extra efforts to tackle fly tipping and prosecuting the offenders where we can.”
If residents have household waste which cannot be appropriately disposed of through the normal local authority waste collection service, they can check if the Household Waste and Recycling Centre at Cheney Manor Industrial Estate accepts the waste and take it there themselves.
They can also use the Council’s bulky waste collection service or a private business that provides a waste collection service.
To report incidents of fly tipping, log on to: https://bit.ly/2nvzaE3.
Swindon has been selected to tackle the stigma of mental health locally after applying to become a Time to Change Hub.
Time to Change Swindon will join over 40 Hubs across England to help change the way people think and act about mental health problems.
Made up of Swindon Borough Council, Age UK, AWP, Phoenix Enterprises, IPSUM, Swindon & Gloucestershire Mind, Swindon STEP, Stratton Parish Council, The Olive Tree Cafe and local champions, the Hub will combine the insights of the national Time to Change campaign with local knowledge. They will support communities, workplaces and schools to take action to end negative attitudes and behaviours towards people experiencing mental health problems in their communities.
Councillor Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Mental Health Champion, said: “I’m delighted that Swindon has become a Time to Change Hub. We’ll be working with many local providers to highlight the support available in the town to make sure we’re all looking after our mental health, in the same way we look after our physical health.”
Time to Change, the national campaign run by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, launched its first regional Hubs in March 2017. The announcement of eight further funded Hubs, including Swindon, is part of the campaign’s three-year plan to establish a network of Hubs across England to provide a focus for local campaigning work.
Since their initial launch, Time to Change Hubs have successfully campaigned to end mental health stigma and discrimination. Their work has ranged from stopping a stigmatising theatre show ‘Psycho Asylum’ from touring the country to supporting Time to Talk Day (7 February 2019), running events and delivering campaigns aimed at improving understanding and respect for people living with a mental health problem.
Jo Loughran, Director at Time to Change, said: “When one in four of us will fight a mental health problem in any given year and suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 40, it’s vital that we come together to end mental health stigma. Our network of Time to Change Hubs are able to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination in their community.”
Picture: partners in the Swindon Time to Change Hub met yesterday at Swindon Borough Council’s Civic Offices
Shoppers and businesses are set to benefit from a new Council policy which will see the introduction of free parking on Sundays.
From April, the Council’s town centre car parks will be free on Sundays. The aim is to help residents and businesses by ensuring that people get to enjoy one day a week where they do not have to pay to park.
In 2018, the Council invested £160,000 in its town centre car parks, ensuring they were safe and clean for everyone who uses them.
This programme of upgrades has now been extended to make the car parks free to use on Sundays to encourage more people to use the town centre at weekends.
The introduction of free parking on Sundays will be cost neutral. A small 10p per hour price increase, the smallest amount possible, from Monday through to Saturday will help cover the £390,000 cost of the free parking.
The policy will be rolled out in April and councillors have urged shoppers to take full advantage of the money saving scheme.
Councillor Oliver Donachie, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “This is great news for residents and businesses. To be able to park for free for a full day, especially at the weekend, will create new opportunities for everyone.
“We know that the rise of online shopping has posed a number of challenges for local businesses and we want to do as much as we possibly can to help them thrive. The free parking provision on Sundays will help to create an extra 52 days of trading for businesses, and I would encourage residents to take full advantage of it.”
The first free Sunday for the Council’s town centre car parks will be 7 April 2019.
Councillor Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Town Centre, said: “Free parking on Sundays is the big new town centre parking policy.
“I hope local residents and businesses use this opportunity to support our town centre, as we all wrestle with the challenge of online shopping and the changing high street.”
Swindon Borough Council’s Licensing team has one again received top marks from the RSPCA for its stray dog service.
The prestigious gold standard was announced at the animal charity’s recent Community Animal Welfare Footprints (CAWF) awards.
The award scheme was developed 10 years ago by the RSPCA to recognise outstanding work carried out by local authorities, housing providers and other public service organisations, and to highlight those who go above and beyond statutory requirements to improve animal welfare and their communities.
Dealing with stray dogs goes beyond just animal welfare, as it has a much wider impact on the community on matters such as street cleanliness, public protection and anti-social behaviour.
The Council’s licensing team once again had to comply with a wide range of criteria in order to be awarded the gold standard, including assistance with compulsory micro-chipping, and regular proactive work to encourage responsible dog ownership.
This includes providing educational sessions in schools to help children understand how to safely interact with dogs.
The team also scooped a Silver Animal Activity Licensing Footprint, while the Council’s Environmental Protection Officer for Animals, Alison Waine, was nominated for a new special award, which recognises individual members of public sector staff who are making the biggest impact to animal welfare in England and Wales. Alison was nominated by local RSPCA Chief Inspector, Steph Daly.
Commenting on her recognition, Alison said: “We have an excellent relationship with our local RSPCA group and it is lovely to have this recognition from them.
“We have seen a 44 per cent increase in the number of stray dogs reported to us over the last two years but, despite that, we managed to reduce the number of dogs that were not claimed and so required a rescue space from 20 per cent to just 13 per cent.
“None of our unclaimed dogs were put to sleep including some that were ill, elderly or had behaviour issues as we were able to find excellent rescues to take them on and work with them.”
Cllr Cathy Martyn, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Public Safety, said: “We only have a small Animal Licensing team, so to gain this recognition from the RSPCA is a magnificent achievement.
“Alison and her colleague do a tremendous job and have changed the way they work so they provide a consistently efficient and effective service on limited resources. I would like to thank them for all their hard work – these awards are thoroughly deserved.”
To report a lost or found dog to the Animal Warden, call 01793 445500.
Residents will soon be able to report inconsiderate drivers as the Council implements new powers from October.
After asking residents to comment on the proposal earlier this year, the Council will be issuing Penalty Charge Notices of up to £113 from 1 October under the Traffic Management Act, if drivers block dropped kerbs and driveways or double park.
The enforcement action is being introduced following concerns raised by residents over the effect this type of parking has on pedestrians with pushchairs, mobility scooters, those with visual impairments and households with driveways.
Residents can let the Council’s Parking Team know of any instances of this type of parking by reporting the offence online and officers will then attend areas where complaints are raised.
The powers do not apply to vehicles parking on the pavement unless they are obstructing a dropped kerb or driveway.
Vehicles being used for loading and unloading, emergency services, waste collection, and roadworks are among those exempt from the restrictions. Residents blocking their own driveways are also exempt as complaints need to be raised by the resident who is blocked in.
Cllr Oliver Donachie, Cabinet Member for Economic Prosperity, said: “We want to help the local community by minimising instances of inconsiderate parking which we know cause great inconvenience and distress for many of our residents.
“In order to make this an efficient and effective implementation of the powers, residents need to report instances online and details of how to do this can be found on the Council’s website by searching ‘parking enforcement’.
“We cannot guarantee an immediate visit by our Parking Team but priority will be given to persistent offences or those which cause significant access issues either for pedestrians or other vehicles.”
Warming up Swindon!
Do you struggle to keep your home warm or worry how you will afford your energy bills this winter?
Contact Warm & Safe Wiltshire for free, impartial advice about keeping your home warm, using your heating system, understanding your energy bills and making energy saving improvements as well as registering for the Priority Services Register. Advice can be given through home visits as well as over the phone. Fire safety alarm and appliance checks can also be organised in partnership with Fire and Rescue for eligible residents.
If you, or someone you know, would benefit from speaking to a trained energy advisor, then get in touch.
Call 0800 038 5722
Warm and Safe Wiltshire is a service provided by Swindon Borough Council and Wiltshire Council in partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Energy and Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service.
‘I had business in Highworth today and managed to find a parking space in the area opposite Grosvenor Consultancy offices on the High Street. I returned to my car around 5pm. Due to a car parked in front of me I had to reverse back onto the High Street to leave. Unfortunately a combination of the ice I was parked on, my rear wheel drive car and the incline , I was unable to gain enough traction to reverse. I was trying to clear the ice around my wheels when a young chap approached and offered to push me off the ice onto the ice free main road. He tried really hard but in vain. A lady returned who was parked next to me .She has some cardboard in her car and offered me that to try to put behind my wheels to help with lack of traction. That didn’t work either. The chap who helped pushing then suggested I try the pub opposite for some hot water to melt the ice. The landlady was great and on my second trip back to my car with a jug of hot water another gentleman was standing next to my car. He had seen my plight from an upstairs window opposite and brought some dishwasher salt to help melt the ice. The combination of the water and salt freed me up from the ice and I could be on my way. In the space of less than 10 minutes four individuals who were not known to me tried to help. So a BIG thank you to the people of Highworth. This was only the second or third time I have visited Highworth, but it will not be the last!’
Voting was as follows:
Spoilt papers 3
HIGHWORTH residents voted in favour of an ambitious plan which will help them direct new housing developments in the town.
The Highworth Neighbourhood Plan has been in the works for three years and after months of meetings and consultations between councillors and residents, it was put to the public vote in a referendum on Thursday.
Reported by Swindon Advertiser