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IBC Coronavirus Update - 12 June 2020

Published12th June 2020

The Council is issuing an updated statement on its response to Coronavirus every Friday. This is the 13th such statement.

Each of these statements has three sections – as follows:

  • A short summary of key items
  • All decisions that have been made this week – and key new information about Council services (etc)

  • A brief comment from the Council Leader – or in his absence – his Deputy.

In addition, we also publish - at the same time – three additional documents:

A short summary of key items

  • We continue to prepare for the ‘reopening’ of the town centre from Monday 15th June in line with government guidance. We are working with a number of partners on the ‘Together We Can’ campaign, stressing the need to make it a safe place for shoppers and employees. Social distancing is key and signage along with access and road changes will be in place.
  • To support the reopening of the town centre, the Council will be opening its toilets in the Corn Exchange Limelight bar area for use by the public from Monday 15th June (until 3rd July 2020). The toilets will be opened 7 days a week 10:30am to 4:30pm, with access from the King Street entrance.

  • Our skate parks are proving very popular but otherwise our parks and open spaces were quieter last week. We are expecting the Mansion Tea Room to re-open in the coming days, serving pre-made food and ice creams for takeaways only from the ‘serving hatch’ on the side of the building.

  • The Ipswich Museums team has created more than 50 activities you can do online through the ‘Museum from Home’ project: cimuseums.org.uk/museumfromhome. You can also create stories to share some of your own experiences of the pandemic.

All decisions that have been made this week – and key new information about Council services (etc)

In response to the challenges of Coronavirus, Ipswich Borough Council’s position has been updated in the following areas this week:

  • Parks: We are keeping our parks and open spaces maintained and safe to allow people to spend time outdoors, including exercise, in groups of up to six people, provided they adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. Our skate parks are proving very popular and are being well used. Otherwise our parks and open spaces were quieter last week than in the previous couple of weeks, with the notable exception being on Saturday afternoon where Christchurch Park was the venue for a Black Lives Matter protest on Saturday afternoon. We are expecting the Mansion Tea Room to re-open in the coming days, serving pre-made food for takeaway only and ice cream in tubs not cones, the courtyard seating area will not be opened and serving will take place using the serving window facing out into the park. Outdoor gym equipment and our play areas remain closed in accordance with the Government instructions.
  • Brown Bins: Last week was the fourth week of collections of brown bins since we restarted, we were making the second collection of brown bins from those residents who had their bins collected during the second week of the restarted service. We collected 296 tonnes of garden waste last week, which as a comparison is within 3% of the 289 tonnes collected in the same week last year and is about half of the weight of the material collected during the first week of the restarted collections. The last two weeks have shown that material collected within brown bins has already returned to normal levels.

  • Local Authority Discretionary Grant Fund: The Council has been allocated £1.24m to spend on discretionary grants. It has now formally launched its Policy and applications for grants can now be submitted. The closing date is Friday 26th June 2020. The Policy and the link to the application process is available at: www.ipswich.gov.uk/businessratesgrant. The maximum grant given out will be £10,000. So far (10th June) the Council has received 28 applications for a Discretionary Grant. The types of businesses that can apply are:

    • Small businesses in shared offices or other flexible workspaces (i.e. that don’t pay business rates themselves). Examples could include units in industrial parks, science parks and incubators;
    • Regular market traders (i.e. in our case - Ipswich Market traders);
    • Bed & Breakfasts which pay Council Tax; and
    • Charity properties in receipt of charitable business rates relief which would otherwise have been eligible for Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rate Relief.

 In addition the Council will also make its Fund available to the following types of businesses:

    • The two Street Traders operating in our town centre;
    • The four boats which operate at Ipswich Waterfront within the general criteria for the retail, leisure or hospitality grant, but who didn’t qualify as they pay mooring fees rather than business rates;
    • Independent cafes / bars within larger premises – where the café / bar pays rent to the larger premises occupier / owner) (i.e. rather than being rated separately); and
    • Businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector who had submitted an appeal to the Valuation Office Agency prior to 11th March 2020 – and the appeal has not yet been determined – and the evidence submitted provided a realistic expectation that the premises might be revalued to a rateable value of less than £51,000.
  • Funding from Government: So far, Ipswich Borough Council, has received four payments from Government that relate to the national response to Coronavirus. Two amounts (in total just over £1.4m) support the Council in its response to Coronavirus – i.e. the Council has the ability to choose how to spend it. The other two amounts can only be used to pass on to others - nearly £26.5m for the Council to pay to business as grants and just over £1.5m to cover the Ipswich element of the Hardship Fund – primarily for those receiving working age Local Council Tax Support. Additionally, an allowance of £5,250 has been made by Government (that the Council will draw down) to cover rough sleeping service costs. The claim was completed on Wednesday 6th May for the full amount. On 24th May 2020 the Government launched the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund. Ipswich Borough Council has been allocated (but not yet received) £120,858 from that Fund. The Council has now received £32,450 from Government via ‘Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) Support Funding’ and has already passed this money on – as required – to our BID – Ipswich Central Management Ltd.

  • Payments in 7 Days: As part of its response to Coronavirus, the Council amended its procedures to aim to pay all invoices from suppliers within 7 days. In May 2020, 95% of invoices were paid within 7 days. This compares with a norm of about 45% paid that used to be paid in 7 days (i.e. prior to the adoption of the new 7 day target).

  • Town Centre Plans: It has now been announced that ‘non-essential’ retail stores can re-open from 15th June 2020. The Borough Council continues to work with a number of partners – Ipswich Central, Suffolk Constabulary and Suffolk County Council (as well as the wider Ipswich Vision group) to plan how the town centre could work safely with more business open and more people in the centre – whilst still enabling compliance with Government rules / guidance – such as social distancing. This week some of the new ‘Ipswich: Together We Can’ signage has started going up around the town centre. Ipswich Central have produced, with support from partners, a Together We Can: Reopening our Town Centre Safely Employer’s Guide (ipswichcentral.com/togetherwecan). As announced last week, the Borough Council will re-open Crown Car Park on Monday 15th June. The opening hours will initially be 10:30 to 16:30 Monday to Sunday. Use of the car park will be free of charge up to and including 3rd July, although any individual stay should not be longer than 5 hours. Next week, we hope to be in a position to start to set out plans for support the re-opening of cafes, public house and restaurants (etc) from whenever the Government allow (e.g. 4th July at the earliest).

  • Public Toilets: Following discussions with Ipswich Central it has become clear that most retailers and shopping centres that will re-open next week plan on keeping their toilets closed to public use. Therefore at the request of Ipswich Central and recognising the importance of having available toilets in the heart of our town centre to support local business and provide convenient facilities for the public, we will be opening the toilets within the Corn Exchange Limelight Bar for general public use with effect Monday 15th June (through to 3rd July 2020). The toilets will be open 7 days a week 10:30am to 4:30pm, with access to them from the King Street entrance which will be attended by a member of our team – where necessary wheelchair access will be provided through the separate disabled access. It is expected that the staffing and cleaning costs for this can be funded from the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund (provided by the Government and the European Regional Development Fund.

  • Sources of External Funding for Groups: On 9th June 2020 Historic England has launched a second emergency fund to support the heritage sector recover from the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. Grants of up to £25,000 will be offered to fix urgent problems at locally-cherished historic buildings and sites which are normally visited by the public, so that they can re-open as quickly as possible, subject to COVID-19 restrictions, and thrive once again. The deadline for expressions of interest is midnight on 28 June 2020. For more information on eligibility and how to apply: historicengland.org.uk/covid-19-fund/.

  • Arts / Cultural Performances:  A decent summary of arts and cultural activities going on in the town during these challenging times can be found at: www.suffolklibraries.co.uk/events-activities/online-and-streamed-events/arts-activities/. Each week we will draw attention to one organisation and what they are making publicly available online.  We are proud that our museums service is nationally recognised by the Arts Council – this includes Ipswich Museum, Ipswich Art Gallery and Christchurch Mansion. The team have created over 50 activities that you can do online through there ‘Museum from Home’ project, see: cimuseums.org.uk/museumfromhome/ You can also share some of your own experiences of the Covid pandemic, for example photos from your phone, creating a scrapbook, recording a diary, creating artworks or music… Have a look at:  cimuseums.org.uk/yourstories/

Council buildings [including the Regent Theatre, the Town Hall & Corn Exchange, Shop Mobility, Swimming Pools & Sports Centres, the Tourist Information Centre and visitor centres in Christchurch and Holywells parks, and the Museum, Art Gallery and Christchurch Mansion] will remain closed to the public (other than for point 7 above) until such time as the Government restrictions are lifted and we have the ability to re-open them safely. We are working with the promoters of shows that were due to be at the Regent and Corn Exchange to find new dates for shows in the autumn and beyond and will continue to contact ticket holders as these arrangements are made. We have not been accepting bookings for any of our venues to hire until at least the end of June and this will remain our position for now.

Future Communications and Contacting the Council

The Borough Council intends to issue a detailed statement every Friday while communicating more regularly about individual issues and services.

If you wish to contact the Council about anything please contact us via www.ipswich.gov.uk or 01473 432000 rather than visit Grafton House or the Customer Services Centre).

We know that these statements will generate a number of customer queries but we ask you to use the ‘contact us’ form on our website.

The Leader of the Council, Councillor David Ellesmere, should be available to comment if there are any media enquiries – he can be contacted via the Council’s Press Office (press.office@ipswich.gov.uk).

A brief comment from the Leader of the Council

“Monday will see the next major phase of lockdown relaxation with the re-opening of non-essential shops. As we prepare to welcome more people back to the town centre we have been working with our partners to make this as safe and enjoyable experience as possible. Crown Car park will be free of charge for the first three weeks, we have re-opened Major’s Corner public toilets and will be temporarily opening the toilets in the Corn Exchange for public use.

“As a further step back towards normality, I’m pleased that Christchurch Mansion tearooms will also re-open for takeaway service.

“We are not out of the woods yet and must continue to maintain social distancing but together we can get through this.”

Councillor David Ellesmere, Leader, Ipswich Borough Council

 

Issued by the IBC press office (press.office@ipswich.gov.uk).