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SWT working for our communities

08 June 2020 : Council news

SWT has been supporting residents and businesses throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
Although offices have been closed to protect our community and staff the Council has been delivering critical services and ensuring our most vulnerable residents are supported.

In many cases this has meant re-organising working arrangements, boosting resources in some areas and setting up completely new services.

Key to this has been ensuring public involvement in decision making with virtual committee meetings.

Members of the public have been able to register to speak and ask questions at meetings which are answered by the Portfolio Holder or followed up with a written response. The meetings are also live streamed so that members of the public can watch from home.

Maintaining momentum in planning has been an important part of our service provision. The Council has continued to accept pre-application advice applications, site visits are being undertaken where appropriate with social distancing rules, and phone and conference calls are being undertaken.

Customers have been encouraged you to use the Planning Portal to submit applications or to email for advice.

Full information on the planning process during Covid-19 pandemic is available on our website, along with other essential service advice.

Since measures were announced to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the council has also:

  • Made calls to 3,500 tenants and 600 other potentially vulnerable residents to check if they need help
  • Worked successfully to get rough sleepers off the street and into temporary accommodation to enable them to keep safe
  • Delivered over 110 food boxes to people who are shielded and those facing hardship
  • Coordinated and supported a network of community and voluntary groups to ensure everyone has access to help in their community
  • Provided Business Rate relief to 1,300 qualifying business rate accounts and removed their liability to pay rates for this year
  • Provided Small Business, and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant funds totalling over £37.7m to 3,165 eligible businesses
  • Opened applications for Discretionary Business Grants –which will pay out a further £2.1m in grants to eligible businesses
  • Implemented the Council Tax Hardship Funding received from central Government and applied one-off £150 awards to 7,017 working age Council Tax Support claimants
  • Reviewed and extended the awards for 285 Discretionary Housing Payment claims to provide ongoing help to people to pay their rent
  • Recalculated 1,693 Housing Benefit claims providing additional support for people to help pay their rent

Leader of SWT, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, said: “I am proud of how our Council has responded to the impact of Coronavirus and am grateful for the support of our communities throughout this difficult time.

Staff have worked hard to ensure frontline services are provided, and extra help has been available to our businesses and communities, including our tenants and the vulnerable.

We have adapted to many challenges through this pandemic and have been humbled by the efforts of everyone as we all adjusted to new ways of working. There are many challenges to come as we look to the future and start our recovery planning to ensure our council, our communities and our economy are not only resilient but can thrive.”

Somerset West and Taunton owned car parks will stay free for the foreseeable future as part of the Council’s wider plan to support the re-opening of High Streets and help rejuvenate the local economy.

The Council is continuing work to further its regeneration programmes across the district with plans being developed for Firepool and construction resuming where contractors have been able at Coal Orchard, Seaward Way in Minehead and East Quay at Watchet.