Coronavirus – District Council update

District Council Update

The following is a communication from our local District Councillor, Simon Howell:

Dear All,

Below is the most up to date information from Vale regarding the CoVID-19 response, this includes the weekly town & parish update and other information that may have come through, as more information comes down the chain we will send round updates as and when required. Thank you all for your amazing work locally, it is making a huge difference to those at risk and may be ill during this time.

Garden Waste Services

There’s good news for people in southern Oxfordshire looking for ways to dispose safely of their garden waste. South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils have reopened their paid-for garden waste service to new customers.

The service has continued throughout the lockdown for existing subscribers. For a short period of time the council and waste contractor, Biffa suspended taking on new customers to prioritise the kerbside household collections while members of the waste collection crews were off sick or self-isolating.

Biffa has now built up sufficient resilience in its workforce to enable new customers to join.

The service will also take extra garden waste (equivalent of another brown bin e.g. three bin bags) in the week of  11-15 May


Harwell vaccine centre

Fast-tracked construction of the UK’s Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre at Harwell Campus will accelerate the start of their vital research in the fight against COVID-19. You can read more about the centre in the press release issued by Harwell Campus:


Supporting the homeless in our district

A couple of weeks ago we updated you on the excellent work of our housing staff in ensuring all our rough sleepers were offered accommodation within 24 hours of the lockdown announcement. It’s worth pointing out that this was really just the beginning of the hard work as our staff have also been working flat out to secure on-going accommodation for this vulnerable group or residents.  So far, we’ve managed this for more than half of the people we currently have in temporary accommodation.


Grants funding available

We’ll start with some good news – grants of up to £3,000 are currently available for town and parish councils to apply for from Scottish and Southern Electricity towards projects that will specifically support residents in vulnerable situations.

They’re encouraging applications for projects that will provide extra help to those who are self-isolating or social shielding, such as the elderly or anybody with underlying health conditions. They’re looking for projects like social delivery services, online advice centres, befriending schemes, etc.

You’ll need to be quick to catch the first round of funding – the deadline for applications is 30 April 2020.


You can find out more about the fund here and apply for funds through their website.


Community support update

We’ve had encouraging reports from the voluntary and community groups we’re working with that they are feeling confident and able to provide support to the people that need it on an ongoing basis. We hope this reflects your experience – please do contact our Community Support team if you have any concerns.


We have now referred over 452 residents to our network of volunteers across South Oxfordshire and the Vale since the Community Support service began less than a month ago. We’ve also called over 537 residents on the shielded list to check if they needed additional or ongoing support.


Food remains the main area people require support. Last week we provided 37 food parcels to residents of both districts that had nobody else to turn to and where we weren’t able to immediately refer them to a volunteer group. This takes the total number of food parcels to 67 food parcels since launching the service, which has helped to feed 74 Adults and 22 children.


Please make sure you’re using the correct details (below) to contact our Community Support service and please do share these details widely:

Response to planning letter


Since our last update the Leader of the Vale, Cllr Emily Smith has received a response from the Ministry for Housing and Local Government to her letter, which raised issues around targets for determining planning applications and the 5 Year Land Supply during the pandemic. You can read Emily’s letter here and the response from the Ministry here.


Business grants update


In the past week we’ve made significant headway in paying out the government funding to support small businesses affected by COVID-19.  As of yesterday, we’d paid out £17 million across both districts, and we’re well on track to pay all the requests we’ve had by 30 April.

We are currently phoning all of the eligible businesses in the district that haven’t yet taken up the offer of support.


Bulky waste services return


To help residents deal with some of the waste they may have built up during this pandemic we’ve reopened our bulky waste collection service for large household items, such as sofas and washing machines. We had initially suspended the service to focus on collecting kerbside household waste while some of the waste crews were off sick or self-isolating. We will keep the situation under constant review and if necessary, suspend it again if staffing levels become an issue.


Whilst recycling centres and charity shops stay closed, we’re urging residents to store any waste that we cannot collect through our regular kerbside service.


Finally, going forward I will try and include a directory of helpful web addresses – If you have found any which have been useful for yourselves please let me know and I will include them going forward for others.

Any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

Best wishes, and stay well


Cllr Simon Howell

Watchfield and Shrivenham Ward

Vale of White Horse District Council