Dear resident, With the longest day just behind us, the year suddenly seems to be rushing past. Summer is now well and truly here and it’s been lovely to enjoy this long spell of warm, dry and settled weather. I know of course that some of the recent heavy storms have impacted a few of our communities with flash flooding and the council is supporting where needed.
Our roads The dry conditions have allowed us to continue to make huge progress on road repairs, fixing the winter damage – to the extent where we have completed a remarkable 10,000 repairs since our new Buckinghamshire Highways contract began on 1 April on top of our annual re-surfacing programme. This is made up of some 4,300 individual repairs and over 6,000 using our ‘Jetpatcher’ on more rural roads. This of course demonstrates the impact the very harsh conditions that last winter had on the network, reflected up and down the country. I have recently joined with other council Leaders across the south-east in writing to the Government asking for more money for our roads, given the heavy volumes of traffic and the large number of utility works in the region. I’m absolutely not complacent, we still have a lot of work to do, but I’m pleased that we’ve been able to respond at scale to complete so many repairs so quickly. We have fifteen teams working on road repairs, including potholes, some round the clock, seven days a week. Alongside this we continue to roll out our programme of bigger improvement works, with over 200 larger re-surfacing, drainage and road safety projects on specific sections of the highways. Our staff Obviously to fix the roads we often have to close them or use other traffic management while we carry out the repairs. We do try to keep disruption to a minimum but we ask you to be patient and to bear with us as we carry out this essential work. I’ve been shocked at some alarming reports of our staff being not just subject to verbal abuse but even physical violence while carrying out vital repairs on our roads. I would ask everyone reading this to please appreciate the job they’re doing and to treat them with respect. I understand road closures are frustrating and that, with the added disruption from HS2 and East West Rail, plus a very high volume of utilities works in the county, that getting from A to B is challenging at times but please be patient and understand that our people are doing this work to make the roads safer and better for all of us travelling around the county. Summer support for residents I know the news continues to be challenging around high prices, mortgage rates and energy costs as the Government works to bring down inflation. For many local households, the struggle to make ends meet remains a real challenge. The council has put in place a range of support across the summer for families as part of our continuing measures to help residents with the cost-of-living pressures. Our Helping Hand service is issuing digital food vouchers to eligible families over the summer holidays to make sure that these families have support buying food over the summer months. Eligible families will be contacted directly in the coming weeks with their voucher codes. Our Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme now has even more locations – the scheme offers free holiday activities and a healthy hot meal to children in Reception – Year 11 who receive benefits-related free school meals. These are brilliant clubs which offer a range of high-quality activities from day trips, to adventure activities, to sports, dance and much more. You can find out more about all of the support on our dedicated ‘school summer holidays’ webpages, including lots of ideas for free or low-cost activities for families over the summer months. Any residents can also contact our Helping Hand service for any wider support needs if you’re experiencing hardship or financial struggles and need advice and support. We can help in a whole range of ways so please don’t worry in silence and make contact if you need us.
Armed Forces Day and Schools Awards I am immensely proud of our Armed Forces. We marked Armed Forces Day this month in a number of ways; we held an Armed Forces conference inviting local organisations to sign up to the Armed Forces Covenant to pledge support for our Armed Forces Community, to help where they can in assisting those who serve our nation, and their families. This might be by becoming a ‘Forces Friendly’ employer or through providing other support. We also commemorated Armed Forces Day with flag-raising ceremonies in both Aylesbury and High Wycombe.
Ceremony honouring our Armed Forces personnel held in High Wycombe.
Recognising our amazing teachers Late last week it was a huge pleasure to host our very first Schools Awards at Pinewood Studios. This was a fantastic event, created by the council, which recognised the incredible contributions of teachers, other school staff and students themselves across Buckinghamshire. I was honoured to attend and was so proud to see the winners collect their awards – and for the pride they showed in themselves too. Nominations were open to all staff in schools in Buckinghamshire, to vote across eleven categories from ‘New Teacher of the Year’ to ‘Pupil Voice award’ and ‘Raising Attainment Award’. It was a fantastic night and I thank all the award sponsors too who covered the cost; it was brilliant to see such fantastic support and involvement from local businesses in this event. You can see the full list of winners on the council’s website.
Winners at the Buckinghamshire Schools Awards ceremony.
Grand Prix weekend The British Grand Prix takes place at Silverstone 7-9 July. It’s an exciting event which puts Buckinghamshire on the map on a global stage. I know that it does have an impact on residents who live in the north of the county as it’s such a large event so I urge you if you’re in an impacted area to look out for the communication from Silverstone about the local traffic and travel arrangements in place, and to keep across traffic updates on theirs and our own social media channels during the event itself. Stanley Hill Amersham I don’t normally make a specific reference to utility works but Stanley Hill in Amersham will be completely closed by Cadent Gas for some essential gas main replacement during much of August. Details are in the local media and will be distributed door to door, but this road is the A404 and a major road used by many from outside the area, so please take care during the school holiday period when driving through this area and expect delays. Make the most of summer in Bucks! I hope by now all Buckinghamshire residents have received the summer edition of ‘Your Buckinghamshire’ magazine which this time includes a brilliant ‘summer trail’ to complete. While I know lots of people will enjoy going away over the summer, there’s also so much to do here across the weekends and during the holidays, much of which is low-cost or free. From parks, leisure centres, libraries and local attractions, it’s well worth staying put and making the most of what’s on our doorsteps this year too – so do use the magazine ‘summer trail’ for inspiration. You can also take a look at Visit Buckinghamshire website and the Buckinghamshire Family Information Service website for ‘things to do’. We’re promoting some brilliant apps this summer too – why not sign up to our ‘Better Points’ appwhich gives you rewards for staying active, at whatever pace suits you best! Or use the free ‘Love Exploring’ app in our local parks and green spaces which creates bespoke activities and games to suit all ages when you’re out enjoying the fresh air in these fabulous spots in Buckinghamshire. Bucks Tree Mission On the subject of open, green spaces, it was also great to see our Transport, Environment and Climate Change Select Committee last week note the fantastic progress we’ve made in our Bucks Tree Mission to plant over half a million new trees in the county – one for every resident. This is a really important project that is part of our ambitious, wider Climate Change and Air Quality strategy. I’m delighted that the committee heard an update on the council’s tree planting activity following the last tree-planting season, with 145,000 trees planted in the last twelve months alone. You can read more about the great progress we’re making on our tree-planting mission by reading the full report on our website. Annual Canvass Please look out for an email or letter from the council in the coming weeks asking you to check your electoral registration details are up to date through our ‘annual canvass’. This is an exercise the council carries out every year to make sure our electoral register is up to date, and importantly, so that all residents can exercise their right to vote when elections come up. Being on the electoral register means that you can have your say and vote in future elections and it can also help with your credit rating. The easiest way to register is online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. Please be assured that emails coming from ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ with a subject line of ‘Electoral Registration – Response Required’ are legitimate, and not part of a scam, which we know was a concern for some residents last year. Lastly, I hope you can continue to enjoy the warm dry weather. After a really hot weekend please take any precautions needed on warm days, like drinking lots of water, wearing a hat and using sunscreen if necessary. Also, please keep an eye out for more vulnerable friends and neighbours who may be more affected by the heat. There’s now a new heat-health alert service in place nationally so keep an eye out for alerts as we enjoy these spells of good weather. Otherwise, enjoy the sunshine and take care. Yours, Martin Tett Leader of Buckinghamshire Council