Starting today, Cllr Phillippa Martin-Moran-Bryant begins her regular monthly column for the Bedford Independent, looking at issues that particularly affect Bedford’s villages...
During this Covid-19 (coronavirus) crisis, councillors are tasked with trying to communicate with residents without being able to use village magazines, newsletters, leaflets, attend Parish Councils, or meet face to face.
The obvious answer to would seem to be social media, but if there is one thing that elected representatives know it’s the limitations of social media in trying to reach a wide audience.
The Council had been putting notices in the Bedford Times and Citizen, but that has announced that it is no longer printing, which means another avenue lost, although I’m perfectly aware that many residents, particularly in villages, haven’t had a copy delivered in a long time.
We have put up posters, but those already self-isolating won’t see those.
The crucial aim is for every resident to have the Community Hub telephone number (01234 718 101) and email address (email@example.com) so everyone can access support if needed, not just those over 70 or who are particularly vulnerable.
I am keen on a mass mail out by post so that at least everyone has a number they can call, just in case.
Having got this number out, it is also vital to keep people updated and to help to stop the spread of fake news, and sadly scams.
Reliable online sources are still operating including newspapers, the Borough Council website, and Parish Council websites which is helpful, but I am aware how many people do not have access to good quality internet to keep them updated- due to cost or lack of broadband.
In addition to supporting residents with key services at this time, other Council work can’t stop and residents still need to be involved.
For example, planning applications and planning strategy still have to he decided on, as do new licensing applications.
I spoke recently with planning officers about how to effectively consult residents in light of the Covid-19 rules.
Usually for any new local plan the Council would hold various consultation events as well as having documents online.
Current consultations must be careful not to leave certain residents out in the cold, for example those who do not have access to good quality internet to download large documents.
Other organisations such as East West Rail and the NHS still need to hold effective consultations too.
While these decisions seem less important now, deadlines are still in place that must be met, and decisions taken based on these consultations will affect our lives for many years to come long after Coronavirus.
Legislation has been passed which enables the Government to bring in rules to allow councils to have formal meetings online instead of in person.
However, it is still important to ensure that these meetings are public, we are after all still elected to represent you and you should have access to what is going on.
Likewise we are still here as councillors to assist you with any queries you have.
Councillors are having lots of useful briefings online, and I hope that these continue after this crisis as they are very useful for bringing us all together and sharing information effectively so that we can pass on information to you as best we can.
I’m perfectly aware that if you’re reading this you have access to the internet and you are clued up with where to get local news.
If you can help to share accurate information, vital updates and the Community Hub number to those who don’t have access to it by ‘old fashioned methods’ like phone calls, I would be very grateful.
Thank you. Stay safe, stay well.
by Cllr Phillippa Martin-Moran-Bryant
Great Barford Ward (comprising Cardington, Cople, Great Barford, Ravensden, Renhold -including Cranbourne Gardens, Willington and Woodlands Park -part of Brickhill Parish)
Tel: 07934 853 907