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Helping those who need it most in your community

Helping those who need it most in your community

Vulnerable people forced to self-isolate due to the coronavirus pandemic will be offered a helping hand, thanks to a new voluntary initiative in Swindon.

Swindon Borough Council has teamed up with Voluntary Action Swindon and the Volunteer Centre Swindon to help pair volunteers with those who have no one to help them during the current public health emergency.

Members of the community who want to help those who are self-isolating, who do not have their own support networks, can now log their offers of support with Voluntary Action Swindon, who will work with the Council to pair them up with those most in need.  This could involve speaking to someone over the phone to offer some companionship or collecting shopping for those who are staying at home.

Pam Webb, CEO of Voluntary Action Swindon, said:If you are someone who is self- isolating or in need of non-medical assistance as a result of coronavirus, we would recommend in the first instance that you reach out to family members, neighbours and friends that you know personally. But we are very aware that there will be people in our local community for whom this is not possible.

“These are the people we hope to help through our ‘Compassionate Swindon’ initiative.  We also want to try and help the many charities and care services continue to thrive who are also experiencing staff and volunteer shortages due to current containment protocols.

“As usual in difficult times the community spirit shines through and all three of the organisations in this partnership have been contacted by people wanting to volunteer.  We want to make sure that this fantastic community spirit is harnessed in the best way to keep both volunteers and those being helped safe.”

People who wish to support others should visit www.vas-swindon.org to complete a simple online form indicating how they are willing to help. The team at the Council’s Live Well hub will be helping to match all volunteers with those in need.

Councillor David Renard, Leader of Swindon Borough Council, said:The Live Well Hub in Swindon works all year round handling referrals and giving people access to opportunities and services which can help improve their health and wellbeing.

“We are therefore very well placed to step up our current service in these difficult times to help people in our local community who are feeling more vulnerable. We are delighted to be working in partnership with Voluntary Action Swindon and the Volunteer Centre Swindon to harness the goodwill of the people of Swindon to provide help where it is needed.

“Anyone in the Swindon community needing some non-medical help can call the Council’s team on 01793 465513 or email livewell@swindon.gov.uk so they can be put in touch with residents willing to help.”

Sarah Troughton, HM Lord- Lieutenant of Wiltshire, said: “I am very pleased to back this initiative from Swindon Borough Council and Voluntary Action Swindon. It is a sensible and practical way of helping each other at this tricky time in different ways. We are only at the start of the three or four-month period of isolation and patience and goodwill is going to be required as much as anything. The Swindon community will be trailblazers.”

Sue Dunmore, CEO of the Volunteer Centre Swindon states: “The Volunteer Centre Swindon works hard to match people interested in volunteering with suitable opportunities and to ensure volunteering best practice is applied. We are delighted to be part of this partnership.” 

Bus pass restrictions to be lifted for older and disabled people in Swindon

 

Bus pass restrictions to be lifted for older and disabled people in Swindon

 

Older people and those with disabilities will be able to use their bus passes before 9.30am from Monday (23 March).

 

Swindon Borough Council has made the decision in conjunction with local bus companies to enable both older and disabled residents to get to the shops earlier during the current COVID-19 pandemic so they can take advantage of designated shopping slots from the major supermarkets.

 

Holders of a senior citizen and disabled bus pass were previously only able to travel for free on buses after 9.30am.

 

Councillor Maureen Penny, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and the Environment said: “I would like to thank all our local bus companies for their support in extending the period in which people can use their bus passes.

 

“This will make a real difference to the older generation and those people with disabilities, giving them greater access to shops during what is a really difficult time for our local communities.”

 

Swindon Borough Council has a statutory duty to provide passes for free bus travel throughout England for older and disabled people under the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS).

Swindon Borough Council urges parents to keep children at home if they can following government guidance

Swindon Borough Council urges parents to keep children at home if they can following government guidance

 

Parents are being encouraged to keep their children at home following the Government’s decision to close all schools after today (20 March).

 

Swindon Borough Council has reinforced the Government’s guidance to parents, which asks parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible, to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

 

Schools, and all childcare providers are being asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children – children who are vulnerable, and children whose parents are critical to the COVID-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home.

 

But the Government advises that by limiting the number of children in educational and childcare settings such as nurseries and childminders, the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society.

 

The Department for Education has issued a number of key principles for parents to follow during the COVID-19 response:

 

  • If it is at all possible for children to be at home, then they should be.

 

  • If a child needs specialist support, is vulnerable or has a parent who is a key worker, then educational provision will be available for them, should they not be able to be cared for at home.

 

  • Parents should not rely for childcare upon those who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category such as grandparents, friends, or family members with underlying conditions.

 

  • Parents should also do everything they can to ensure children are not mixing socially in a way which can continue to spread the virus. They should observe the same social distancing principles as adults.

 

Parents whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response, or who work in one of the critical sectors outlined by the Government, and cannot keep their children safe at home, then their children will be prioritised for education provision.

 

Councillor Russell Holland, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for Education, said: “I cannot stress enough how important it is that parents follow the guidance set out by the Government which aims to minimise the risk of the COVID-19 virus spreading and infecting vulnerable people in our communities.

 

“The guidance states that if children can stay at home then they should and our expectation is that parents do all they can to ensure that is the case. I would also encourage employers to be as flexible as they can to allow parents to care for their children so as many people as possible follow the social distancing advice which has been rolled out across the country.”

 

The Government has produced some information for parents and carers on the closure of schools and care settings which is available here:  https://tinyurl.com/qkheoh8

 

 

Landmark report on future of Mechanics’ Institute to be discussed by Swindon Borough Council

Preparations could soon be underway to bring Swindon’s historic Mechanics’ Institute into public ownership.

 

If approval is given at next week’s Cabinet meeting (Wed, 25 March), officers at Swindon Borough Council could begin to make the preparations that are necessary to allow the authority to make a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO), which could secure the Council’s ownership of the building.

 

A strict condition of the CPO process, however, is that a third party must first be in place to take over the building.

 

The Grade II* listed Mechanics Institute is currently owned by Forefront Estates Ltd and its eventual renovation is a key priority for the Council. It’s also the highest priority project in the Heritage Action Zone which was launched last year in partnership with Historic England.

 

Despite attempts by council officers to engage with Forefront Estates over possible restoration plans, the company has not been forthcoming, requiring the authority to step in.

 

Since January 2019, the Council’s Cabinet Member for heritage issues, Cllr Dale Heenan, formed a group made up of heritage experts at Historic England and the Mechanics’ Institution Trust, to identify a solution to the 30-year problem that is the derelict Mechanics’ building.

 

Together with funding and support from Theatres Trust and funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund, the group commissioned a viability study to determine a way forward for the building.

 

With the foundation work complete, the Council may soon be able to prepare the necessary paperwork to make a CPO, which will help to enable restoration plans to proceed.

 

An enforcement notice was issued last autumn which allowed the Council to step in to remove the bushes and overgrown vegetation from around the building.

 

Councillor Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Town Centre, said: “The Mechanics’ was a key personal priority for me when I took over as cabinet member 18 months ago, and I must thank my colleagues for letting me go out on a limb to get this sorted. Good news – we have nearly cracked it.

 

“For the first time all of the right people are at the table collaborating and we can demonstrate that there is a sustainable future for one of Swindon’s most treasured assets. This will comprise a mixed-use facility that can accommodate a range of business, community and social functions such as weddings, proms, concerts, theatrical and other cultural uses. What’s more, there is a strategy to secure the necessary £24m for restoration.

“The Mechanics’ is a complex jigsaw – you work out which pieces have edges and join them, then slowly build up the picture. If you jump to trying to find the right pieces that fit in the centre of the picture, then you’ve made it ten times more difficult. There is a plan and we are following it.

 

“Thanks to the collective efforts of Historic England, the Mechanics’ Institute Trust, Theatres Trust and the Council, I am pleased to recommend to Cabinet a way forward for the Mechanics’, and that includes authorising Council officers to prepare whatever is required for a Compulsory Purchase Order.”

 

Cllr Heenan added: “It’s important to stress that for the next stage, we must have a third party in place before the CPO occurs. If anyone is interested, please come forward and make yourself known.”

 

Rebecca Barrett, Regional Director for Historic England in the South West, said: “Through our Heritage Action Zone we have a crucial opportunity to make progress on a future for the Mechanics’ Institute.

 

“We know through experience that tackling historic buildings at risk takes partnership, imagination and perseverance. We have all of those in Swindon, with the right people around the table, all committed to finding a long term solution for this remarkable Grade II* listed building.

 

“We will continue to work with the Council over the coming months to work up a robust plan to help bring the Mechanics Institute back to life.”

 

Claire Appleby, Architecture Adviser at Theatres Trust, said: “The Mechanics’ Institute is an important Grade II* listed building and a fine example of its kind, which has been on our Theatres at Risk register since 2006.

 

“The viability study has clearly shown an exciting opportunity for the Mechanics’ to be brought back into viable reuse for its community and to once more be standing proud at the heart of the Railway Village.

 

“We are delighted to have been able to be a part of the steering group for the viability study and to help fund this work through our Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme at what is seen to be a crucial turning point for the future of this historic building.”

 

A definitive viability study commissioned by the Mechanics’ Institution Trust, and undertaken by consultancy firm Fourth Street, has shown that a high-quality, multi-purpose events venue is the best option for the future use of the building.

 

Fourth Street has outlined a delivery programme of four and a half years. Added to this, however, will be the potential time necessary to secure ownership of the building and to raise the necessary capital funds.

 

The Mechanics Institute was built by the Great Western Railway in 1855 to provide a place for recreation and education for railway workers. It included a theatre and a library, among other amenities.

More pupils received their first choice secondary school on National Offer Day

Today (2 March), 95 per cent of pupils due to start secondary school in September were offered a place at their first choice school.

 Swindon Borough Council’s School Admissions Team were also able to offer 99 per cent of Swindon pupils one of their top three preferences.

 The number of applicants who received their first choice placement has increased on last year and the 99 per cent figure remains consistent with previous years’ results.

Parents will start to receive emails today confirming where their child has been placed, providing they applied by the national deadline last October.

 The school admissions team received 2,742 applications on time this year.

 Councillor Russell Holland, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “Year on year our School Admissions team work tirelessly to ensure that as many Year 6 pupils as possible get placed in their first choice secondary school.

 “This is no easy task, especially when they deal with such a large number of applications.

 “I would like to extend my thanks to the team for all their hard work and hope that we can continue to get really good results for parents and pupils across Swindon.”

 Offers for primary school places will be sent via email on 16 April, providing parents applied by the national deadline in January. Parents do not need to contact the Council’s Admissions Team before this time unless they need help making changes to their application.

If parents have any queries regarding secondary school places for this September, they should contact School Admissions at schooladmissions@swindon.gov.uk  or the school directly.

Plans to revitalise Fleming Way to go on public display

Plans to create a new bus interchange and gateway into Swindon Town Centre will be the focus of two public drop-ins next week.

 

The proposed scheme has been developed by Swindon Borough Council and would see Fleming Way completely transformed to include a new public space with a green spine to reflect the old canal that used to run along Fleming Way. The project will also feature much-improved pedestrian and cycle routes and will see the removal of the current Fleming Way underpass.

 

The work will build on the changes to nearby Wellington Street by creating an attractive route from the train station into the town centre, encouraging further investment in the area.

 

All national and local bus services would be incorporated along Fleming Way, improving the experience of bus users and pedestrians, while the new road layout would complete the link between the Eastern and Western Flyer cycle routes.

 

The new bus interchange is being developed to complement other town centre regeneration schemes, including the Kimmerfields development to the north of Fleming Way. As part of this development, the existing bus station will be demolished after the new transport hub has been completed enabling the Council to deliver new homes and offices which will bring more people to live and work in the town centre.

 

It also supports the vision for the town centre, which states that ‘By 2030, Swindon town centre will be the beating heart of the local community. A place to set up home and business, where people stay longer, spend more and keep coming back’.

 

Members of the public will be able to view the plans and find out more information about the scheme at two drop-in events at the Jurys Inn Hotel on the corner of Fleming Way and Princes Street.

 

The first drop-in will take place on Tuesday, 3 March between 12noon and 5pm, with the second being held on Thursday, 5 March between 2pm and 7pm.

 

The Council has applied for £25m in funding from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund to create the new bus facility after making it through the first assessment phase last year. The final bid for funding will be submitted this April, and the Council expects to find out if it has been successful in the autumn.

 

Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) has contributed £3m to progress the design of the scheme, to carry out the necessary site investigations and begin the British Telecom diversion. The Council’s Cabinet has also been asked to contribute £5m of Capital funding to the project.

 

Councillor Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Town Centre, said: “The replacement of the bus station is long overdue and this significant scheme will not just benefit those who live and work here, but create a lasting impression on people who come to visit our town. Swindon has been shortlisted for £25m by the Government from hundreds of bids, and we now have to wait until the autumn for a final decision.

 

“This would be one of the largest investments in the heart of our town in a generation and sends a message to businesses that Swindon is a place in which to invest.

 

“If you would like to find out a bit more about the plans and how they will benefit the Town Centre then please come along to one of the engagement sessions because we genuinely would like to hear your views.”

 

Further information on the plans is available at: www.swindon.gov.uk/busboulevard

Support in place for Honda staff and supply chain workers

A package of measures has been put in place to support workers affected by the closure of Swindon’s Honda factory in July next year.

Almost a year after the Japanese carmaker announced it would be closing its South Marston base, a co-ordinated programme of welfare support is established with Honda itself leading the way to support its employees.

Honda of the UK Manufacturing, Honda R&D, Honda Trading, Honda Logistics and other direct suppliers, have been supported by a range of local and national partners. These have included Swindon Borough Council, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Department for Education Funding Agency, Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, local colleges and other training providers, the National Careers Service and others.

The Honda and Supply Chain Coordinating Steering Group, led by Swindon Borough Council, met recently ahead of today’s (10 Feb) national Honda Taskforce to identify additional support for Honda workers and those working in the supply chain when production stops in 18 months’ time.

Business teams at Swindon Borough Council and Wiltshire Council are making links between potential employers and the Honda of the UK Manufacturing and supply chain HR teams, in order to focus training on actual job opportunities.

Through the Community and Well-being Task Group, organisations such as MIND, Citizens Advice Bureau, Swindon Borough Council, Nationwide Building Society, Swindon Churches Together, Sovereign Housing and Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group have all volunteered their time to work together to support anyone directly affected by the closure. This included producing a brochure outlining free-to-use redundancy support around health and financial well-being as well as offering direct support to those that need it.

Swindon Borough Council has also set aside £200,000 to help Honda workers and companies within the supply chain. Half of the money has been used to unlock further funding from the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) SME Competitiveness Programme, which will provide start-up support as well as support to companies in the Honda supply chain. The remaining funding will support Honda workers as and when required.

Honda of the UK Manufacturing has appointed a specialist company to support staff who are either looking to find new jobs locally or start up their own businesses.

Employees have had access to a series of training needs assessments as well as a range of foundation and specialist courses. Job-hunting support is also in place for all workers.

Councillor Oliver Donachie, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Place and member of the Honda Steering Group, said: “Twelve months on and the signs remain positive that Swindon is well-placed to rebound from the disappointment of car production ending at the Honda plant next year.

“Ranked eighth in the latest Good Growth for Cities index, Swindon is lucky to have a diverse, growing economy and over the past year, BMW, Nationwide and Zurich have announced fresh investments in their operations here.

“The Honda factory will continue to turn out hundreds of new vehicles on a daily basis until July 2021, so the pace and nature of our support needs to dovetail with the company’s timescales and processes as it phases redundancies between now and the end of production.

“I know that Honda of the UK Manufacturing has invested significantly in providing wellbeing support for its Swindon workforce, along with training and development and financial planning advice. The company has also put aside a substantial amount of money to meet workforce redundancy costs.

“The Steering Group continues to reach out to Honda’s supply chain to support their goal of identifying potential new customers for when the factory eventually closes.”

A Supply Chain Task Group is also supporting direct suppliers to diversify and win subsequent contracts, while support is available for at-risk employees. National partners have organised a 2020 ‘Meet the Buyer’ event for automotive manufacturing suppliers and Honda Tier One supply chain companies on 3 June at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena.

Another group of stakeholders, led by the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, is looking at the main South Marston site. This group has considered future opportunities for the site, while ensuring Swindon’s need for additional investment and support is heard at a national level working with the town’s MPs, councillors and Local Enterprise Partnership.

Paddy Bradley, Director of Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership and member of the Honda Sites Task Group, said: “The Swindon and Wiltshire Local Industrial Strategy outlines the area’s challenges and opportunities for economic growth and recognises the national and local significance of the Honda site and workforce.

“This is one of the UK’s largest, active, relatively constraint-free employment sites with several thousand productive local employees with a range of skills. Although Honda owns the site and will ultimately decide who it is sold to, the Sites Task Group is keen to support a future use which sees more of the site becoming operational, with a range of manufacturing and other high-value employment, ideally with some skills and innovation support.”

Any Swindon and Wiltshire-based Tier One manufacturing suppliers who are not in contact with any of the Honda Task Groups can email: support@swindon.gov.uk for further details about the support that is available.

Swindon Borough Council commits to carbon neutrality by 2030

Swindon Borough Council has committed to going carbon neutral by 2030 as councillors step up the fight against climate change.
At a meeting of the Full Council last night (23 January 2020), members unanimously agreed a motion committing the Council to reduce its corporate carbon emissions, with the aim of making the Council’s estate and activities carbon neutral by the end of the decade.
Members voted to ensure the Council’s strategic decisions, budgets and approaches to planning decisions are in line with a shift to zero carbon by 2030.
By taking a lead in the climate change movement, it is hoped that the Council can inspire local businesses, residents and other organisations to take a similar approach.
In a show of widespread unity, the motion was supported by the Council’s Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat Groups.
Councillor Garry Sumner, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, said: “I am extremely pleased that this important motion, which demonstrates our commitment to protecting the environment, was passed unanimously by all members last night.
“Climate change is, justifiably, right at the top of the political agenda at the moment, and this Council recognises how important it is for everybody to do their bit for the benefit of present and future generations.
“We sincerely hope that this significant vote will inspire other businesses and organisations to work towards full carbon neutrality. We all have a long way to go but the will and commitment is there and the target has been set.”
The commitment to going carbon neutral by 2030 follows a number of actions the Council has taken in recent months to play its part in protecting the environment.
A special Climate Change Working Group was established last year and quickly began thinking of actions. New parking standards in Planning will require every new house built in the borough to include charging points for electric vehicles; further investments in solar energy have been made; the Council has bought electric vehicles for its corporate fleet; installed electric vehicle charging points on the Civic campus; is investing in LED street lighting to save energy and has introduced a food waste trial to ensure that discarded food is properly disposed of.
Important links with organisations such as the Woodland Trust and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust have been forged with plans to increase tree cover across the borough over the next decade.
There is more to do and work has already started on assessing available options, but a carbon neutral Council will be a reality by 2030.

Mannington road improvement scheme complete

Shoppers using Mannington Retail Park are benefitting from a scheme which will significantly improve congestion at a major Swindon roundabout.

A new slip road from the retail park directly onto Great Western Way has just been opened, which will reduce the amount of traffic leaving the shopping area at the Wootton Bassett Road exit and entering Mannington Roundabout.

Within the retail park itself, Telford Way has been widened to allow for a two-way flow of traffic and new signs have been installed to improve the internal layout, making it more efficient and simpler for motorists to navigate.

The latest improvements are part of an overall package of works at Mannington Roundabout, designed to improve traffic flow and alleviate congestion at peak times.

The overall £3.2m scheme has been funded by Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP).

Earlier phases of the work included the removal of the Wootton Bassett Road bus lane between Mannington Roundabout and the railway bridge to create extra queuing capacity, while the roundabout itself was widened near the Fish Brothers garage to improve traffic flow.

Councillor Maureen Penny, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and the Environment, said: “Mannington Roundabout is a key junction in Swindon so it is incredibly important we keep traffic moving as best we can with the increasing number of vehicles on our roads.

“We now have more queuing capacity on Tewkesbury Way and Wootton Bassett Road and the latest work to build the new slip road from the retail park onto Great Western Way will enable people to exit the shopping park without having to go all the way back out onto the roundabout.

“This is just one of a number of improvement schemes we are carrying out in Swindon as we continue to invest millions of pounds upgrading our road network for local residents.”

John Mortimer, chairman of Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) is investing £8.92m in three schemes in the Swindon area to improve the quality and efficiency of bus routes serving strategic housing developments.

“We are pleased that the completion of work at Mannington roundabout brings to a conclusion the first of these schemes, improving bus links between the town centre and the growing Wichelstowe development.

“As well as specific improvements around the Mannington roundabout area, this project will improve access to the town centre for Swindon residents, reduce journey times, support economic activity in the town and help to lower Swindon’s carbon footprint.

“It is the most recent example of investment from SWLEP’s £169m Local Growth Deal with Central Government to develop a growing and sustainable economy in the Swindon and Wiltshire area.”

 

Pride of Swindon Awards returns as search for community champions continues

Pride of Swindon Awards returns as search for community champions continues

The annual search for Swindon’s unsung heroes has begun following the launch of the latest Pride of Swindon Awards.

The awards, now in their 12th year, recognise and celebrate the many selfless people in Swindon who go above and beyond to help their local communities.

People are encouraged to nominate someone they think deserves an award. Maybe they regularly give up their free time to volunteer, have overcome adverse circumstances or have consistently been a strong role model for others?

This year’s awards were launched by Mayor of Swindon Cllr Kevin Parry at the Civic Offices on Friday (30 Nov).

Cllr Parry said: “I am delighted to be able to launch these awards which recognise the fantastic work done by so many people in Swindon.

“I am sure the judges will have as difficult a time as ever in picking the winners and I wish the best of luck to everybody who is nominated.”

A team of judges will be assembled to assess the nominations and a special ceremony will be held where the winners will be presented with their awards.

Those wanting to nominate individuals or teams have until Friday, 24 January 2020 to get an application in.

The winners will have their names permanently on show on a plaque at Swindon Central Library.

To nominate someone, follow this link and complete the form.