The Town Elector’s meeting followed a new format this year, where participants shared and celebrated how the community of Woodley had come together during the Covid 19 pandemic, with presentations from organisations the Council supports sharing stories of how they had worked with local residents.
Following the Town Mayor Cllr Janet Sartorel’s welcome, presentations were heard from:
Highlights of the presentations were:
Jake Morrison highlighted that during the period 2020-21, 750 people in Woodley were supported; a 48% increase on the previous year. He talked of several case studies, including helping a resident with mental health issues to access the service, a resident who was supported to resolve a debt issue with their water and energy companies and a couple to access food support during the pandemic, as well as arranging for them to obtain a specialised bed due to illness.
Peter Absolon shared stories of some of the residents who had used the Readibus service during the pandemic, many who described the service as a lifeline and how safe it made them feel, taking the worry out of travel. One local resident who had lost her husband during the pandemic, relied on the service as her only means to get out and expressed her thanks to Woodley Town Council for supporting the Readibus service.
Marjie Walker noted that the service which supports those isolated or lonely, grew from supporting 350 people to just over 700; 78 of which lived in Woodley. The organisation also joined with other local charities and Wokingham Borough Council to form the Community Response Team. 556 people in Woodley were supported and following referrals from Adult Social Services, a further 25 individuals within Woodley during the second lockdown.
Jayne Streak talked about how an online café was set up during the lockdowns, with people meeting for two hours every Wednesday via Zoom. Following the relaxation of restrictions, the group has been able to meet twice in Woodford Park for a walk followed by a coffee. The project is now seeking to set up in-person Friendship Tables.
Richard Davies told of how the pandemic created a significant increase in demand for support from people who had traditionally not needed support; this included the clinically vulnerable, as well as those who were cautious, shielding, furloughed, newly unemployed or unable to work. He added that the community support during the pandemic had been outstanding with a tremendous team effort of the community supplying the food and volunteers packing and delivering.
Tracy Wand explained that, after two individual groups had initially formed at the start of the pandemic, a combined Woodley Volunteer for Covid 19 Facebook Group was set up with membership now at around 1,500 members. The group helped with a variety of support across Woodley, from gifts for those struggling financially, to distributing bottles of water and snack bars to key workers. They also arranged an out of hours collection point for the Food Bank and helped to link residents needing support with the organisations and volunteers who could help them.
Following these presentations, the Woodley Town Council Town Clerk provided an updated on the Council’s activities over the past year, and its response to the pandemic.
Highlights included that by April 2020, the Town Council had set up new ways of working, including home working, Covid risk assessments, and buildings had been adapted to meet Covid guidelines. The Council was also able to continue providing space at the Oakwood Centre for blood donations and family support sessions, which have continued during lockdown, as well as more recently for Covid vaccinations.
The Town Clerked thanked the Friends of Woodford Park for managing the flower beds, which have looked amazing during the year, and to all colleagues who have kept services running in the face of ever-changing guidelines.
Looking ahead, during the next year, there is a project to install a new play area in Woodford Park and the Council is seeking views from members of the public on the three possible designs. Other projects include removing the algae in the lake at Woodford Park using barley sausages, completing the refurbishment of the Maintenance Depot, replacing the low fencing in Woodford Park, restricting unauthorised access to Malone Park and putting pathways into the little play area, and developing a SLA to support Young People in Woodley.
The year also sadly saw the passing of two serving Councillors; Jon MacNaught and Dave Mills, who was the serving Mayor. The Town Clerk expressed her appreciation for all their work and stated that the Council’s and residents’ thoughts go out to their families.
We received a few questions and suggestions from the public; two of which were answered at the meeting discussing the town centre garden and youth provision support in Woodley. Both issues are actively being actioned by the Council.
Closing the meeting, Town Mayor Cllr Sartorel said: “I’d like to thank those who have taken part and shared stories of help and hope. I am humbled and moved by each and every one. I’d also like to thank those residents who have attended or viewed the meeting.
The Council hopes to expand on the format of this meeting next year, and to continue to celebrate the wonderful town of Woodley.”