12th April 2021

Somerset West and Taunton Council supporting our communities throughout Covid-19

Somerset West and Taunton Council (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.

Among the many services and measures implemented since restrictions were announced to prevent the spread of Covid-19, SWT has: – 

Set up virtual committee meetings, where members of the public have been able to register to speak and ask questions, which are also live streamed so the public can watch from home.

Encouraged people to access services online including the Planning Portal to submit applications.

Provided Business Rate relief to 1,567 qualifying business rate accounts and removed their liability to pay rates for this year.

Administered Government Grant Schemes to businesses in both the first and second National Lockdown periods including – 

Mandatory Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Scheme –   894 grants paid amounting to £15.3m.

  • Mandatory Small Business Grant Scheme – 2,653 grants paid amounting to £26.5m.
  • Discretionary business grants scheme – 353 grants paid amounting £2.11m.
  • Mandatory Local Restrictions Support Grant Addendum – 1,385 grants paid amounting to £2.05m so far although this scheme is still open.
  • Discretionary Additional Restrictions Grant – 307 grants paid amounting to £0.348m paid (although the current application window is closed we are still finalising payments so this figure will rise).

Created and distributed a Business Newsletter for 4,948 subscribers with news and updates relating to them and their business.

Implemented the Council Tax Hardship Funding received from central Government and applied one-off £150 awards to over 8,000 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.

Made calls to 3,500 tenants and 600 other potentially vulnerable residents to check if they need help. 

Delivered over 110 food boxes to people who are shielded and those facing hardship.

Administered the Test and Trace Support Payments scheme on behalf of central Government and have so far paid 184 applicants on a low income £500 to help them self-isolate.

Worked successfully with partners to help rough sleepers off the street and into temporary accommodation to enable them to be safe and support.

Coordinated and supported a network of community and voluntary groups to ensure everyone has access to help in their community.

Created and distributed a Voluntary and Community Sector for 948 subscribers updating them on news and updates relating to the community sector and signposting opportunities and grants available.

Established a Community Chest fund to help communities recover from the effects of COVID-19. The fund is supporting one-off initiatives run by the voluntary and community sector, and wider community groups who have been unable to secure mainstream funding from the Council or other sources.

Introduced a local scheme to help commercial fishing vessels and businesses moored in Minehead stay afloat with a three month reduction on their annual mooring bill. 

Put a number of measures in places to help shop owners re-start their businesses safely and ensure that customers can visit shops with confidence including signage, messaging on posters, banners and social media reminding people about the importance of social distancing and hand washing. 

Provided a £500,000 cash boost to support town centres as part of its commitment to recovery, investment, jobs and opportunity.

Gained Department for Transport (DfT) approval to operate an e-scooter trial in Taunton offering a green alternative to get around and allow for social distancing.

Provided the e-commerce platform ShopAppy to local businesses free of charge for 12 months, allowing them to boost trade by selling their goods and services online, giving people a chance to support the local business community and buy local.

Provided free parking in SWT car parks during the first lockdown and at certain times over the festive period.

The Council has also taken many events that would normally be marked with occasions and ceremonies online this year encouraging people to get involved virtually including the switch-on of Taunton’s Christmas lights, the Remembrance commemorations, VJ Day and VE Day commemorations.

The Mayor of Taunton, Cllr Fran Smith, has used funds from the Alderman Spears Charitable Trust, to support families in need in the run-up to Christmas with a share of £1,000 in vouchers, as well as giving £300 to Arc and £300 to Dulverton YMCA to support rough sleepers, children and young people with dinners on Christmas Day; and £400 to Home Instead Senior Care’s ‘Be a Santa for a Senior’ scheme.

SWT has also been working with the neighbouring district councils, Somerset County Council, other statutory bodies and partners on joint initiatives to support people across the county including the Somerset Coronavirus Support Helpline, employment of Covid Wardens, Active Travel arrangements; and employment, careers and skills support.

Leader of SWT, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, said: “I am proud of how our Council has responded to the impact of Coronavirus in this extraordinary year to ensure frontline services are provided, and extra help has been available to our businesses, our tenants and the vulnerable.

I am also grateful for the support of our communities throughout this difficult time and have been humbled by the efforts of everyone as we have all adapted to the many challenges through this pandemic.

I know this may not be the Christmas that we wanted this year but I hope that we can still keep our loved ones in mind, take care of one another and look forward to a better 2021”.