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Somerset bins WILL be collected

Somerset Waste Partnership took the decision yesterday (25 March) to close all of its household waste recycling centres. The decision was taken they say because the large number of users was making it impossible to police the government’s “social distancing” measures.

However, despite what you may have read elsewhere, all “kerb side” rubbish and recycling collections will continue as normal. This makes it all the more important not to miss your collection date for brown box, green and black boxes and black bins.

Understandably the “missed bin” service is suspended so make sure your bins are out on time and clearly visible. Garden waste collections and bulky collections have also been suspended.

If you have symptoms

The Government has provided guidance on how to dispose of personal waste, like tissues and disposable cleaning cloths, if you have Coronavirus symptoms.

The guidance is for anyone with symptoms, including those diagnosed with the infection who must remain at home until they are well. It also applies to people in households with someone showing symptoms (a new, continuous cough and/or high temperature) that may be caused by coronavirus.

Personal waste, should be stored securely in disposable rubbish bags. These should then be placed into another bag, tied securely and kept separate from other waste within your home. This should be put aside for at least 72 hours before being put in your usual rubbish outside your house, which will be collected as part of the usual fortnightly collections.

Yeovil property closed

If like me you thought the Magistrates Courts were closed, then you would be wrong.

On 23rd March Yeovil Magistrates Court granted a closure order for a property in Yeovil. This followed repeated concerns about antisocial behaviour and drug offences being raised by the public.

n recent months police have been called to the address, 10 Becket House, in South Street several times. Reported issues included suspected drug use and supply plus criminal damage to the premises and a police vehicle.

South Somerset Neighbourhood Inspector Elaine Costanza was pleased with the outcome: “This order hopefully sends a clear message that drug use and antisocial behaviour will not be tolerated and together with our partners, we will use all legal remedies to protect our communities.”

NHS Responders

Somerset County Council is promoting the NHS responders initiative.

We should stress up front that this is not designed to replace local self help groups who are doing great work around our communities. However across the UK the NHS is looking to recruit around 250,000 people.

They are looking to get help to up to 1.5 million vulnerable and elderly people who are self isolating because of the virus. The idea is to create a database of healthy people who can run errands and support those who are otherwise cut off.

That help could be with:

Delivering medicines

Driving patients to appointments

Bringing patients back from hospital

Making regular phone calls to check on people at home

The group, NHS Volunteer Responders will support the NHS in its work without diverting resources from the core business of providing care to those who need it.

If you are healthy and would like to sign up you can do so at: goodsamapp.org/nhs

Advice on staying at home

As you will know there has been almost complete confusion over the Government advice about staying at home. For office based jobs working at home is often (but not always) possible.

What is much less clear is the position for manufacturing businesses. Machines in many businesses cannot simply be turned off. One process leads to another in a production chain. Most manufacturing businesses cannot simply switch off and their business is not one that can be done at home.

As long as the rules on safe distancing are observed, The Leveller understands employees of manufacturing businesses can and should go to work. Unless government advice changes or the employer puts the workforce in “furlough” (effectively you are granted leave of absence from your work) there is no reason not to go to work.

We know of a number of businesses in this boat that continue to operate including car mechanics, printing and food manufacturing businesses.

The advice as ever is to use your common sense.

And finally – SSDC to close too

Following the decision of Somerset West & Taunton yesterday, South Somerset District Council was the last of our local authorities to keep its doors open. This morning they too have bowed to the inevitable.

Their Connect customer hub at Petters Way has been closed with immediate effect following Government advice. SSDC stress that they will continue to deliver essential services to the public. Hundreds of their staff are still working to ensure they can deliver for local communities as well as push forward with key projects.

Announcing the closure Council Leader Val Keitch told us “We recognise that providing our services in South Somerset is vital at this time and in the months of recovery that will follow.  It will undoubtedly be challenging to maintain all services over the coming weeks and so we will be prioritising support for residents, communities and businesses.  We are already starting to see an increase in demand from people facing hardship due to the virus and its impact on businesses. We promise to support you and support all of our communities.

The Leveller® in April – update

This month has felt like a bit of a roller coaster. One minute we are to publish, the next we cannot. Finally after last night’s address to the nation by the Prime Minister we have clarity. That said, everything we are telling you is true today. Obviously the situation may change, but we wanted to let you know where things were.

The Leveller® will be published in April. We have had it confirmed by both our MP, David Warburton and through his help, a government minister that we can (and should) produce and distribute the paper. We want to express our gratitude to our MP who was available very late last night to help us out with this.

We now want to tell you exactly what we are able to do.

Where to get a copy

Many of our regular outlets are now closed. However we can distribute through food stores, newsagents, Post Offices and petrol stations. This does mean we can get papers out to most communities in the areas we serve if not in quite so many outlets.

Subscribers will also receive a copy as usual.

In Langport where we have door to door distribution that too will carry on as usual. We have checked with the World Health Organisation and for government advice with David Warburton. The clear advice is that there is no reason not to distribute and minimal harm can come from the process. After all many communities are leafleting their citizens as a means of communication.

In addition we will be publishing the whole of our April edition as a pdf online, so those who cannot get hold of a paper edition will still be able to read it.

We are also looking at opportunities to put the paper into food stores which are not a normal part of our distribution.

In which respect we’d like to say a big thank you to Adam, store manager at Tesco in Langport for agreeing to take a display bin with The Leveller during the medical emergency. We are very grateful for his/their support.

Support for our advertisers

Those advertisers that have stayed with us in April we will support by giving extra coverage. We intend to place their ads on our social media outlets and possibly our website too – we are still looking at this. But we will do our best to give them a bit extra as a thank you.

Our steps to be safe

To reassure you that we are taking every step to do our bit during this crisis, we have taken the following measures. All communication between the team at Leveller Towers is now by telephone or email and there are no meetings. Only the editor is accessing the office to pick up post and deal with essential administration.

When our hard copy is delivered, we will arrange for the boxes to be dropped off on pallets outside Leveller Towers. Then our distributors will arrive at 30 minute intervals to pick up their boxes. This means there will be minimal human interaction in the process.

Thank you

We have had a tremendous amount of support over the past few weeks which has been very humbling. From people taking out subscriptions, donations, advertisers going ahead with adverts even when their own businesses may be shut. And people with no specific reason to advertise doing so anyway.

Thank you to all our readers, distributors, advertisers and outlets for your show of support and loyalty. Please stay safe, follow government advice and help us all get through the crisis as fast as possible.

Somerset West & Taunton closes

Somerset West & Taunton has now followed Mendip, Sedgemoor and Somerset County Council in closing offices and stopping council meetings.

In a statement the council notes “Following the latest government advice to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus SWT has closed its offices to protect our community and staff.

Many of our services can be accessed online at www.somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk 

If you have a homeless emergency please call the free phone number 0808 164 5186

If you still need to see someone face to face please call our customer services 0300 304 8000 between 8am – 6pm to make an appointment.”

A curiosity is that SW&T is now suggesting that they continue using paper can increase risk of the virus spreading. They note “Customers can help us through this unprecedented time by using our online services and not communicating via paper post as far as possible.”

This is somewhat at odds with World Health Organisation advice which has a Q&A as follows:

Is it safe to receive a package from any area where COVID-19 has been reported?

Yes. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.

Post offices stay open – but….

The current situation as regards post offices is that they are open. In large chunks of Somerset the Post Office is often the village store as well so should be classed as an “essential outlet”.

Closure of Post Offices would have serious consequences for many of the more rural parts of the county.

In a statement, the Chief Executive of the Post Office (which unlike Royal Mail, is state owned) explains: “At the moment, the majority of our branches are open as usual and our supply chain is running as normal. Our priority is to keep our customers, postmasters and colleagues safe and healthy. We have advised everyone working in our branches to practice good hand hygiene and we ask that our customers do the same, as well as maintaining a sensible distance between other customers and our colleagues.”

As you may have heard, the Government in Whitehall is currently considering closing down all shops and outlets except those it classes as “essential”.

We will keep you posted (forgive the pun) if the situation changes.

Please don’t abuse the system

Somerset schools have only been shut for 24 hours and already we have reports of parents trying to abuse the system.

For clarity. Schools are staying open only to provide childcare for key workers. Those are workers in a very limited defined set of roles. Those roles are itemised here

Please be reasonable, considerate and proportionate and note:

It is not (ever) acceptable for parents to be aggressive towards school staff.

The purpose of keeping schools open is to provide childcare. It is not to provide continuing full time education to children.

Parents working from home should not expect schools to provide childcare unless they are likely to be called in under emergency conditions.

Schools are reliant on letters from employers to determine if children are  eligible to stay at school. A number of instances have been reported where employers have provided letters of support to parents who are clearly not in the categories identified by government as key workers. Employers have a duty to act responsibly too.

Schools are having to operate a booking system so they can know in advance how many staff need to come in. If people start block booking and then children do not turn up, the school will have unnecessary staff on hand. This is not an inconvenience. The whole purpose of this exercise is to minimise movements to restrict the spread of the disease. Every unnecessary movement of people defeats that objective.

Remember at all times the purpose of these restrictions is to minimise social contact. Please do not jeopardise this by trying to get around the rules for your own personal advantage.

Covid-19 support network

Somerset County Council have put out advice on how to get help during the current medical emergency. We’ve published this below pretty much verbatim. It should be self explanatory

The County Council is working hard to ensure those self-isolating and/or vulnerable adults and their children receive appropriate food, sanitary products and medication.

However please continue to look out for friends, family, neighbours and the community, but most of all yourself.  It’s important you stay safe, so you can continue to help others.

A wave of community groups have been set up across Somerset to assist those in need, which is truly humbling to see. Please visit www.sparksomerset.org.uk/ in the first instance for the latest information and guidance on local community support.

  • Somerset Community Foundation has launched the Somerset Coronavirus appeal to get vital funding to local charities and community organisations that helping the most vulnerable people during the outbreak.
  • Money saving expert, Martin Lewis, has launched the Coronavirus Poverty Relief Fund where £1m is available to fund urgent small charity COVID-19 poverty relief. Applications close at 11:59 on Wednesday 25th.
  • Spark has launched ‘Corona Helpers’, a free online platform on which COVID-19 support groups can recruit and manage volunteers and individuals can pledge their support.

The Community Council for Somerset (community / village agents) are already working in communities with different groups and individuals to make sure the vulnerable are identified and supported. Local village agent details can be found at https://somersetagents.org/somerset-village-agents/

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