Somerset this week: 10 November
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Somerset this week: 10 November
Merging council offices in Yeovil
As Somerset Council struggles with its precarious financial position, it is looking for cost savings in any way it can. One obvious way is to take a hard look at the portfolio of buildings it inherited from its five predecessor councils.
After all if Somerset Council is rationalising its workforce efficiently, then it shouldn’t need so many buildings to house them.
In Yeovil that rationalisation process has already started. Somerset Council is currently consulting on moving council services at Petters Way, Yeovil, into the Yeovil Library building (pictured below).
The deadline for responses to the consultation is November 17. If you’d like to take part and have your say you can do so here
The library already houses a number of other council services, for instance the Registry Office and an "employment hub”. This amounts to a desk with two chairs and a tiny interview area squirreled away in an open-plan area at the back of the first floor.
The problem with the plans is not the idea of rationalising the buildings the Council owns per se. The problem is what the rationalisation will mean for the library. The Council say that if the plans went ahead the library would host:
Registration Service (Births, Deaths, Marriages/Civil Ceremonies)
Housing (including housing register and homelessness services)
All services previously offered by the customer services team at Petters House (Council Tax, Housing Benefits, Planning advice etc)
One library user told us “There is no space at all to do this, and the quality of life for the visiting public would be extremely poor. Just as important, is the consideration for the staff who would work there. It would be like working in a street market, with no privacy during work, or rest breaks. I understand that the Council must save money but this is not the answer.”
There is no space at all to do this, and the quality of life for the visiting public would be extremely poor
Unfortunately the Council is running out of road when it comes to finding good answers to an impossible question.
On Wednesday First Bus proudly announced improvements to its bus timetable. The press release headline read: “Extra journeys added to bus services in Somerset.” Which sounded promising. Various media outlets including the BBC reproduced it without asking too many questions.
On taking a closer look we noticed that of the various changes announced, only one actually involved any extra buses. These were the changes to the route 21 from Taunton to Burnham on Sea.
First Bus told us: “Following customer requests, an earlier journey on the 21 will be added from Taunton at 0500 to Burnham-on-Sea (Monday to Friday) and 0515 from Taunton to Bridgwater (Saturday).
During the evenings Monday to Saturday buses on service 21 will be extended from Bridgwater Bus Station to Dunball, Admiral’s Table providing an hourly service to the North of Bridgwater.”
All good but in terms of extra journeys plural, what we actually have is 1 extra journey daily and an extension to an existing one.
As to the other routes covered in the announcement most related to changes in timings of existing services to make them more punctual. All bar one in fact.
Sot to the “bar one”. This is the The Exmoor Coaster where the service will shut down completely from Sunday 26 November. The service will return in early 2024.
This is new. Previously the service ran all the way through winter.
1 extra journey added and one service completely cancelled
The various changes may well make the bus service better for Somerset users. That remains to be seen.
But in terms of a headline stating “Extra journeys added to bus services in Somerset”? We count 1 extra journey added daily and one service completely cancelled.
Having said that at this week’s Yeovil Town Council once again the public were being urged to use the 54 bus from Yeovil to Taunton. We were told the route is being subsidised by Somerset Council and if the subsidy is not continued the service will be closed.
Never have the words “use it of lose it” carried more weight.
Red faces over Greencore site inquiry
On Wednesday the Planning Inspector was scheduled to hold a public inquiry at Shepton Mallet into plans for the old Greencore site in Evercreech. The factory closed in 2017 and the site has been derelict and slowly crumbling away ever since. Not helped by a fire on the site a couple of years ago.
Two proposals to develop the site for housing were turned down by the then planning authority, Mendip District Council.
Objectors have argued that to go from an employment only site to a residential only site must be the very definition of unsustainable.
Hence finally the arguments over the latest plans were due to be heard in public by the Planning Inspectorate on Wednesday at the former Mendip District Council building in Shepton Mallet. The hearing did not last long.
It transpired that Somerset Council had not sent notices of the hearing out to all the statutory consultees. On being made aware of this the Inspector ruled that the lack of formal notification of the Inquiry dates could render any decision it made “unsafe”.
Red faces all round.
The inquiry will reconvene in January. We asked Somerset Council for a comment. They told us: “The omission of these notifications was due to a computer error. The Council has put measures in place to ensure that this does not happen again.”
Fair enough but really this should not have happened in the first place. And for a cash strapped council, what about the expenses of the postponement?
the appellant is entitled to seek an award of costs
Their spokesperson told us: “The appellant is entitled to seek an award of costs. This should be limited to their attendance at the opening day of the appeal and costs associated with the adjournment. The (reconvened) Inquiry will be held in a Council venue and therefore this will not result in additional costs.”
Good news for nature is hard to come by these days. Between fires, floods, phosphates and sewage, the natural environment and the wildlife that depends on it seems to be under constant threat.
So a press release from the Woodland Trust this week caught our eye. Apparently this Autumn there has been a bumper crop of hawthorn berries.
Volunteer recorders have sent in reports suggesting this year’s hawthorn “crop” should be rated 4.2 on the fruit scale, making it an exceptional year.
Sure this is not an exact science. The recording takes in records where volunteers have judged hawthorns on the abundance of their berries, also known as haws. Recorders make a subjective assessment of the fruit crop giving each tree a fruit score from 1 to 5.
The team has been reporting on this for the last 20 years, and with records still coming in, it’s reckoned to be the largest fruit score ever equal with 2014.
Why have they done so well? The exceptional crop is down to a mild spring where temperatures hovered above average. This is when the white hawthorn flowers bloom which, if pollinated, go on to produce the red fruits in autumn.
The UK average date of first flowering of hawthorn was 1st May this year. This was perfect timing (and not just for its common name the ‘May tree’). The warm dry weather in May was ideal for pollinating insects and now we can see the results.
Hawthorn berries are the favourites of blackbirds, redwings, fieldfares (pictured below), chaffinches, starlings and greenfinches to name but a few.
If you’ve got Hawthorn in your garden or in the countryside near by, there’ll still be full of berries so look out for birds feasting on them.
If you are over 65, or you have family members who are, this is for you. Over 65s qualify for the latest COVID 19 booster this Autumn. More than half of the 255,000 people in Somerset eligible for a COVID-19 booster have had top-up dose.
Which means half of them haven’t. Yet.
In Somerset the NHS is offering walk-ins at local pharmacies, vaccination centres and pop ups at community hospitals and GP practices. Details of walk ins and other centres can be found here . If you look at the side bar tabs too you’ll find other helpful information about where to get vaccinated in different settings.
Many of the places offering the COVID 19 booster are also offering flu vaccinations too. So if you are going in for one, it may be worth checking if you can get both done at the same time.
27 people in the south west died in hospital of COVID 19
COVID 19 is not a thing of the past. The numbers may be smaller and the impact of the disease less severe and we should not panic.
But equally before we all get too complacent, these are the facts:
In the first 2 weeks of October, 27 people in the south west died in hospital of COVID 19
Between 28 October 2023 and 3 November 2023, 213 people went into hospital with coronavirus.
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