£500k fund to help Somerset’s communities open up safely

A new £500,000 fund is being launched by Somerset County Council to help towns and parishes reopen community facilities safely and bring people back together.

As national coronavirus restrictions ease, the County Council is working in partnership with Somerset Association of Local Councils (SALC) to help towns and parishes open up village halls, meeting rooms and other facilities in a Covid-secure way.

The safe reopening will reassure people that they can reconnect with their communities after long months of isolation and remove some of the anxieties they may have around social mixing.

The money is being allocated by Somerset County Council from Contain Outbreak Management Funding (COMF), provided by the Department for Health and Social Care to support public health activities directly related to the Covid-19 response. 

Leader of the Council David Fothergill said: ““We’re committed to empowering our local communities and I’m delighted to launch this fund which will help ensure local facilities can reopen safely.

“Parish and town councils are at the grass roots of local community democracy and as the first tier of local government play a key role in supporting community activity.”

Councillor Clare Paul, Cabinet member for Public Health and Education, said: “This is about supporting people to feel safe and confident as the restrictions ease after lockdowns and to encourage people to use their village halls and facilities to meet, re-establish support groups and activities in a measured responsible way.”

The fund is due to launch in September 2021 and will be led and administered by SALC with support from the County Council. Communities with parish meetings will be included.

Chief Executive of SALC Justin Robinson said: “Many of Somerset’s town and parish councils have already made an extraordinary contribution during the pandemic and this new funding will be available to all parishes to assist with opening up safely and rebuilding community confidence as lockdown eases.

“This new partnership approach to distributing funding is extremely welcome and a new way of working which sits well alongside both proposals for local government reorganisation.”

“We will be working with Somerset County Council over the next few weeks to finalise the guidance for the fund and will circulate this information to all parishes in Somerset at the end of July.”