From the Leaders of South and Vale District Councils

An open letter from Cllr Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, and Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council.

As we come to the end of Volunteering Week, we wanted to express our heartfelt thanks and gratitude, on behalf of South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils, to all of the incredible volunteers who have stepped up to the plate over the past couple of months to make an enormous difference to their communities.

It was just over two months ago that the government announced the lockdown to try and control the coronavirus and keep the public safe.  The method required to keep us safe also meant a significant number of very vulnerable people were suddenly completely unable to carry out the kind of normal day-to-day task we used to take for granted.  This also applied to a whole new group of people who never previously needed any support with their lives.

Within days of the lockdown being announced, a staggering number of people had, without being asked, leapt to their feet to make sure everybody in their local community had what they needed.  They set up shopping and food delivery services, they collect prescriptions, they walk dogs, and they are even just there to have a friendly chat with people who feel isolated and lonely.

It’s incredibly heart-warming to see the selflessness and care with which these wonderful volunteers go about their work.  In local government we talk a lot about community, which is a word that can mean different things to different people, but we believe in the past two months we’ve seen what that word really means.

Not only did these incredible volunteers step up to the plate at the start of the lockdown when their neighbours – and countless people they’d never met – needed them, but they continue to do so, day in, day out, tirelessly.  We’re incredibly proud to be able to help link these volunteers together and to provide a service to ensure they are able reach the people who need them.

It’s quite difficult to put into words the depth of the gratitude we feel for all the volunteers in our district helping our communities make it through these difficult times, but on behalf of our councils and council staff, we’d like to say an enormous thank you.  You are the best.

The importance of that selfless care and solidarity among communities has been thrown into sharp focus with other events in the world at the moment.  Like many of you, we share in the sadness, horror and anger at the death of George Floyd in the US, and at the unfolding events that have followed.

On the surface it might not appear to be a local issue, but discrimination exists everywhere and this loss of an innocent life highlights just one of the ways it can manifest itself.

Time and again around the world, innocent people are persecuted, discriminated against and killed purely because of the colour of their skin or where they were born.  It’s devastating that we’re well into the 21st Century and this remains an issue.

We share in the global outrage about this issue and it’s wrong to remain silent.  At South Oxfordshire and the Vale we are fiercely committed to giving a voice to and representing all who suffer discrimination, persecution, hatred or injustice.

We practice equality, fairness and inclusion, and we believe in everybody – whoever you are, you are most welcome here.  Through many of our services we work hard to ensure marginalised and isolated members of communities get all the support they need.

No one need accept injustice, no one is without a voice, but sometimes they need others to help their voice to be heard, and so we stand with all of our residents in saying we are absolutely committed to help create equal society for all.

Stay safe, continue to take care of each other, and please take care of yourselves.

Cllr Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council
Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council
5th June 2020

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