AS YOU WILL all know, Covid-19 has stopped most usual activities for everyone. That includes our regular council meetings and activities, together with the start of the summer events that we would be commencing around this time of year.
However, Farnham Town Council has not shut down. Far from it – all our staff and councillors are working hard to continue some of our ongoing work and to focus our priorities on helping our communities and businesses in this difficult time.
You will be pleased to know our outside ground maintenance and in-bloom work continues much as usual, since we can do this work while maintaining safe distancing rules.
The outside workforce has also helped set up the Covid-19 assessment centre outside Farnham Hospital, in conjunction with The Hedgehogs charity and Light Angels (who install our town centre Christmas lights).
This centre enables the doctors to make sure any patients presenting with Covid-like symptoms are pre-assessed in this special area away from other patients in the hospital.
Some of our office staff have been working from home, while some have also been supporting the Farnham and Villages Coronavirus Helpline (01252 745446), which is run from the town hall.
This helpline has now received around 1,000 requests for help with prescriptions, shopping and other matters, and we have been able to respond successfully to all of them.
Any people who need specialist help are referred to Surrey County Council and others are referred to the most suitable local help.
We also take referrals that have been made initially to Surrey, but where local help is more appropriate.
As this emergency continues, we expect to find more people facing financial hardship.
Our co-ordinating group has agreed to set up a support fund to ease critical hardship.
So far, we have pledges of more than £22,000 from local charitable organisations and the town council, and we are inviting the local community to match this sum, as reported by the Herald last week.
Applications for help will need to be supported by a suitable referee, and the support fund sponsors will allocate payments through a joint panel.
Another initiative from this group is to set up a community store called Share Farnham. Run from the Maltings and Hale Community Centre, this store will lend out ‘things to keep you busy’ while most people are at home, such as games, puzzles, books, DVDs, craft and cookery items.
The store will open on Tuesday, as reported elsewhere on this page
Please look out for further announcements about this initiative on our websites or call our helpline for more details.
We are naturally concerned about local businesses that are affected by the shutdown. Financial support for business is being coordinated by Waverley Borough Council together with central government, but we are exploring what we can do at the local level.
So if local businesses need help, please contact us.
We are also looking at what we can do to help promote businesses and retailers get up and running again, after a long period of shutdown.
Lastly, I would like to recognise the tremendous work that is being carried out by Waverley and Surrey councils in responding to community and business needs.
Surrey is taking about 250 calls a day from around the county from people needing help, and Waverley officers are working round the clock to keep vital services running and to respond to business needs.
Our MP, Jeremy Hunt, is also supporting all these efforts and taking local concerns back to central government for attention.
So, to them, to all our volunteers, local organisations supporting the community and all front-line workers in the NHS and elsewhere, a big thank you from Farnham Town Council.
The photograph above is just one example of how our young people have stepped up and voluntarily made masks that are now being used in our support activities.