IBC Coronavirus Update - 15 May 2020

Published15th May 2020

The Council is intending to issue an updated statement on its response to Coronavirus every Friday. This is the 8th such statement. From time to time there may well will be a need for major statements to be issued on other days.

Each of these statements will now have 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’s Chief Executive – or in his absence – his Deputy.

In addition, we will also publish - at the same time - a longer list of all the Council’s previous Coronavirus related decisions (etc) that remain relevant:

From next week – whilst we will continue to publish a weekly statement every Friday morning – the intention is to focus it more on how the town is responding to the national ‘road-map’ moving the country out of lockdown.

A short summary of key items

  • Parks Patrol officers continue to advise people to follow social distancing guidelines as the Council opened some park leisure facilities following government advice that people could spend more time outdoors.

  • There are now 6,322 Ipswich residents in the Suffolk-wide shielding group.

  • The Council handled fewer calls from residents last week – with 2,300 coming in directly to our Customer Contact Centre, 142 via the county-wide Home, But Not Alone helpline and just over 500 via online forms.

  • Nineteen families or individuals accessing temporary accommodation at the Council’s West Villa unit have received starter packs of bedding, kitchen utensils, electronics and toys funded by Direct Line Group. These are the first allocations from the firm’s £100,000 donation to support the homeless.

  • Meanwhile, 31 single people are being accommodated in hotel rooms block-booked by the Council. A further 10 are being supported in bed and breakfast accommodation.

  • We continue to make progress with our bid to reach the 2,000-plus companies in the town eligible for the Government’s Business Support Grants. There are now just under 400 that we believe are still eligible to receive a grant of either £10,000 or £25,000.

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:

Council Buildings / Events / Services and Bookings

  • Parks Advice: We are keeping our parks and open spaces open and safe. The Government has announced that people can now spend time outdoors more than once a day, without time limit, for example sitting and enjoying the fresh air, picnicking, sunbathing, or for exercise, as long as they're following social distancing guidelines, either alone, with people in their household or with one person from outside of their household – i.e. groups of more than 2 people from different households are prohibited in law. As a result of the changed rules, the Council has re-opened the tennis courts at Christchurch Park and at Murray Road Park and we have also re-opened the various outdoor multi-use courts that are used for basketball etc in our parks. We are allowing the fixed goalposts in our parks to be used and people are allowed to use the fishing lake at Chantry Park. Bowls greens on our sites will be allowed to open with those clubs needing to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed. Our Parks Patrol team will where necessary be reminding park users of the guidance. We are expecting our parks and open spaces to be much busier going forward as people make the most of the new rules.

 Community Impact and Volunteering

  • Vulnerable People in the ‘Shielding Group’: Data continues to be sent through from Government to Suffolk County Council (SCC) on the residents who are part of the ‘shielding group’.  The Suffolk list has increased to over 35,000 in Suffolk as the NHS continues to update the list (in total now at over 2 million across the nation) and within Ipswich the number is 6,322 shielding residents. The county, districts and boroughs have been proactive in contacting shielding residents that had not responded to the original NHS letter to enquire whether urgent support was required. Last week the Home, But Not Alone postcard was sent to all households. Government food parcels are being delivered to around 6,000 shielding residents across Suffolk. In addition, since 2nd April, 172 emergency food parcels had been delivered to Ipswich residents by Suffolk County Council, with 25 of those being in the week 4th May – 10th May.

  • Food Parcels: In addition to the parcels delivered by Suffolk County Council referred to above, Ipswich Borough Council has delivered 380 food parcels to 248 properties since the Coronavirus ‘lockdown’ started. These are to people who are not in the shielding group but who are unable to access food any other way. We continue to work in close partnership with FIND as well as liaising with others to meet the need of Ipswich residents.  An increasing number of food banks have signed up with FareShare, who are working alongside county partners to ensure an uninterrupted food supply to those food banks. Since the ‘lockdown’ started FareShare have delivered over 4,000kg of food supplies to food banks across Suffolk. The company is also redistributing food from national donations.

  • Prescription Deliveries: From 20th April the County, district and borough councils, NHS, Clinical Commissioning Groups and transport providers established a system for the collection and delivery of prescriptions for those patients unable to collect themselves or without friends and family to collect on their behalf. The Borough Council’s role is to take the calls via the Home, But Not Alone number and take relevant details and pass them on to the community transport provider to collect the medicines and deliver them. We have received 49 requests relating to collection and delivery of medicines since the 20th April.

  • Other Vulnerable People: Suffolk County Council staffed phone line, Home, But Not Alone, 0800 876 6926, diverts most people that are not in the ‘shielding group’ to the various district councils across Suffolk and the districts then provide appropriate support. Last week, 48% of the calls received to the 0800 number were diverted to the 5 districts & borough councils via an automated system. Of the diverted calls, 34% of these calls were diverted to Ipswich Borough Council – i.e.  16% of the total calls received on the helpline. The remaining 52% of the calls were answered by a County Council Customer Services Advisor. It was much quieter week last week with calls received via the Home, But Not Alone helpline reducing to 142, calls directly received by our Contact Centre reduced to 2,300 (6% of them being the Home, But Not Alone calls) and online ‘Contact Us’ forms received reduced to just over 500.

Graph showing the number of customer service calls the Council has had each week since 9th March

Graph showing the number of online form enquiries the Council has had each week since 9th March

  • Progress with homelessness: The Council provides temporary accommodation to the homeless where there is a statutory duty. During the current pandemic this has been extended to those who have certain underlying health conditions, have nowhere to safely self-isolate and rough sleepers. As the current temporary accommodation in Ipswich is at capacity, 35 rooms in an 80+ room hotel have been block booked with an option to extend if necessary. The hotel is now accommodating 31 single people. This is in addition to the 10 single people that are being supported in bed and breakfast accommodation. Support agencies, including Health Outreach, have extended their services to support these two groups and every person will have a personal plan.
  • New Benefit Claims:  The Council has received almost 2,750 claims for benefits since 1st March this year. The number of applications received each week has been reducing since 12th April but remains higher than would normally be expected each week. The number of customers who qualify for working age Local Council Tax Support is increasing as applications are determined. The number of customers entitled to working age Local Council Tax Support and has increased from 6,999 on 1st March to 7,599.

Graph showing the number of benefit claims the Council has had each week since 2nd March

  • Benefit Changes of Circumstances: In addition to new claims, there has been a marked increase in the number of changes of circumstances notifications received. These include changes in employment, hours of work or wages but also includes changes in Tax Credit or Universal Credit (UC) entitlement. The volume we are receiving has been reducing since mid-April but remains higher than is normally reported.

Graph showing the number of change of circumstance requests the Council has had each week since 2nd March

  • Car Park Usage Data: The use of Council car parks over the last week was 94% lower than last year; in line with the trend of previous weeks. Crown Car Park remains closed until further notice. The car parks that are being used more frequently are Norwich Rd Shoppers, Regent, Fore Street and Upper Orwell St South, with the largest reductions in use being Portman Rd, West End Rd and St Peter’s Dock. The free to use parking for those in the NHS and Social Care sector remained static at an average of 13 stays per day with the number of registered users increasing by 6 to 129 registered users last week.

Graph showing weekly car park usage since 23 March

  • Environmental Health: The Council is working with the Police and the Trading Standards service to consistently enforce the temporary business closure legislation. To date we have received requests for advice from 19 food businesses and 10 non-food businesses as well as complaints concerning 19 food businesses and 23 non-food businesses. A significant number of complaints concern social distancing within work places. This is not enforceable under the legislation but we do contact the businesses concerned. One prohibition notice has been served.

  • Council House Tenants: The Council is contacting all of its tenants aged 70 or over, and some disabled tenants under the age of 70 by telephone to check on their welfare. The Customer Services team have adapted the Council’s inbound Community Response form for this purpose. This means that if further support or assistance is required details are being captured on the call so the tenant does not have to call back via the Home, But Not Alone number. To date 1321 calls have been made (80% of this group), 948 of these have been successful and 38 referrals have been made for help with food, medication or other support.

  • Direct Line Funding Progress:19 households at West Villa have been provided with items such as bedding, kitchen & cookery items, toys, electronics, crafts (supplied by Pennikity pots) and baby items. Pennikity pots in Ipswich are very kindly setting up individual packages per household with various items to decorate as a family. They provide all the equipment needed including paints and brushes etc. Once the lockdown is lifted, vouchers will be purchased and these can be used in store by the family at any time. £5,900 of the Direct Line Group money has been spent so far. The process is about to begin again for households at East Villa

Support for Business

  • Town Centre Footfall: The weekly footfall information is shown via a graph so the changes over the last two months can be seen. Last week footfall in our town centre was counted as follows: on Tuesday 12th May, 3,850 people were recorded on our town centre sensors and on Saturday 9th May, 3,818 were recorded.

Graph showing town centre footfall each week since 2nd March

  • Business Grants – Progress: The Council has estimated that there are just over 2,000 business in the Borough that qualify to receive funding (£10,000 or £25,000) from - either - the Small Business Grant Fund – or - the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund. This week, the Government published updated data as to the performance of Councils on giving out these grants – Ipswich Borough Council came 151st out of 314 councils in terms of % paid out. We will continue to provide a weekly update as to the numbers and amounts paid. Key statistics are set out in the table below. To find out more – and if you are one of the 388 businesses that haven’t yet replied to our letter – you can then apply online via: www.ipswich.gov.uk/businessratesgrant. The telephone calls we have made have resulted in some common themes as to why people haven’t applied – so - for the avoidance of doubt – the money is a grant and not a loan and will not need to be repaid (although it is taxable). You can still have the grant even if  you are still trading. Not all applications result in a grant being paid out as, based on the further information provided by the ratepayer, they are deemed ineligible when assessed against the Government guidance for this scheme. Examples as to why businesses were deemed ineligible include: they do not have a business premises, the business activity is not classed as retail, hospitality or leisure and / or they do not qualify for small business rate relief. Ipswich Central are working with the Council to try to contact the businesses that are still eligible in the town centre. The Council estimates that it received about £2m more than will hopefully be paid out to all the eligible businesses – our estimates suggest we have paid out roughly 84% of the funding available to eligible businesses (i.e. £20.4m of £24.4m). 

 

Date

Amount

Scheme Announced by Government

17th March 2020

N/A

First Letter Sent by Council to Known Affected Businesses

26th March 2020

2,207

Money Received from Government

1st April 2020

£26,500,000

First Grant Payment Made

1st April 2020

N/A

Follow up phone calls started by the Council

15th April 2020

N/A

Second Letter Sent by Council to Known Affected Businesses

5th May 2020

444

Estimate of Eligible Businesses / Premises

13th May 2020

2,091

Number of Businesses Paid

13th May 2020

1,703

Amount of Money Paid

13th May 2020

£20,425,000

Applications still Awaited and / or being processed

13th May 2020

388

Received applications to be processed

13th May 2020

41

Borough Council national ‘ranking’ as published by Government (% of money received that has been paid out)

10th May 2020

151st of 314

  • Business Support: Discretionary Grants Fund: This scheme was announced by Government on 1st May 2020. The relevant Guidance was received yesterday (13th May). The Council is likely to have around £1.2m to allocate from this Fund. We will be working to launch our scheme to launch our scheme to allocate this funding before the end of this month.

 Staffing matters

  • Employee Numbers: At the start of this week (Monday 11th) the Borough Council had around 28 employees off work either self-isolating with their households or off with specified Coronavirus symptoms. This was down from 30 at the same time the previous week. By Thursday (14th May) this figure had reduced to 25 – this compares to 27 last Thursday. Around 2/3rds of these numbers are employees in the national ‘shielding’ category.

Graph showing the number of employees with coronavirus symptoms, self-isolating and shielding each week since 16th March

  • Redeployment of Employees: Over the last month we have completely (or partially) redeployed 120 employees to work in areas of the Council that they haven’t worked in before. Some of our areas of work are busier than ever before (e.g. our benefits service) and others are quieter than ever before (e.g. our sports service). So we have redeployed people from quieter areas to busier areas – following training – and employees have moved to support the following services: our Home Emergency Alarms Response service (HEARS), our Benefits team, our Parks Patrol team, our Sheltered Housing team, our Customer Contact Centre team, our Emergency Services Centre team and our Revenues team giving out the business grants referred to at point 14 above. We have also deployed employees to support our main local foodbank – FIND.

Funding

  • Funding Received from Government for Coronavirus Work: So far, Ipswich Borough Council, has received four payments from Government that relate to the national response to Coronavirus. The first amount of just under £77,000 is to 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 (see point 14) 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. Regarding the additional £1.6bn which the Government announced on 18th April, to support local government through the crisis, the Council received £1.35m on Thursday 14th May, which is our share of the funding split based on the Borough’s population numbers with Suffolk County Council getting 65% of funding and the Borough 35%. Our estimates are that – for April alone - the Council spent more than £500,000 on its response to Coronavirus, income was down by over £750,000 and the Council collected over £450,000 less than anticipated from council tax and business rates. So – in effect – the latest Government grant funds only April’s additional expenditure and income costs.

  • Sources of External Funding for Groups: A new Youth Endowment fund of £6.5m has been set up to support vulnerable children at risk of youth violence. Organisations working with young people aged 10-14 at risk of youth violence will be able to apply for funding from £25,000. Half of the total funding is reserved for charities and social enterprises. More information can be found on youthendowmentfund.org.uk.

Re-starting Services

  • Brown Bins (Garden Waste): The collection of garden waste in brown bins has re-started this week for those residents who usually put their brown bin out with their blue bin. This has been widely publicised by the local media and through the Council’s social media channels. Those residents who normally put their brown bin out at the same time as their black bin will get their brown bin collected week commencing 18th May. We have increased our resource with additional trucks and crews, as we expected more brown bins to be presented for collection than usual, with much heavier weights of material collected. On Tuesday of this week (12th) we collected 187 tonnes of material from brown bins. This was a 163% increase in the weight of the material collected when compared to 71 tonnes from the same time last year.

Additional Items

  • 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 performances (etc) they are making publicly available. This week, the spotlight is on Dance East which is now celebrating 10 years on the Ipswich Waterfront.  They have several 15 minute dance classes online every week, for both adults and children (from under 4s to teens) – tots, creative, contemporary, yoga and creative.  ‘Home Is Where The Dance Is  and Dance East’s YouTube channel can be found at: www.danceeast.co.uk/get-dancing/home-dance/.

  • Government Statement on Sunday 10th May: The Council is working through the various documents that have been published following the Prime Minister’s statement on May 10th. The main change that needed to be made has been (see point 1 above). Work is on-going on other areas – particularly in terms of making preparations with partners (including Ipswich Central, Suffolk Constabulary and Suffolk County Council) on how to support the re-starting of further retail based life in the town centre – if ‘Step 2’ of the announcement is activated for 1st June 2020. Further information on this is likely to follow over the next fortnight.

For the avoidance of any doubt, the Council’s car parks (except Crown), the Cemeteries and Crematorium and our parks will remain open. Core services such as black bin refuse collection and the HEARS service will be maintained. The Council also continues to collect blue bins and has re-started brown bin collections. The Council HQ at Grafton House will remain open for staff (not public access).

Council buildings [including the Regent Theatre, the Town Hall & Corn Exchange, Shop Mobility, Swimming Pools & Sports Centres, the Tourist Information Centre, the kiosks and visitor centres in Christchurch and Holywells parks, and the Museum, Art Gallery and Christchurch Mansion] will remain closed until at least 1st June 2020 and – also - until such time as the Government restrictions are lifted and we have the ability to re-open them. 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 (07736 826104).

A brief comment from the Council’s Chief Executive

“This week the Prime Minister announced a slow lifting of the lockdown. The main impact on us as a council has been the decision to allow people to spend more time outdoors. As a result, we have re-opened facilities such as tennis and basketball courts in our parks and open spaces. But one thing does not change and that is the need for people to keep to the social distancing rules. That is absolutely vital if we are to defeat this virus.

“We do have a long way to go and while we will probably see more people going back to work as well as enjoying more of the open air, we must not think we are close to the finishing line. It could be some time yet before many public buildings will be open.

“But we are preparing for that time and we are working with our partners on plans to make the town centre as safe as possible as shops start to resume business. This cannot be solved by one organisation alone and we will continue – as we have done since this pandemic started – to pool our planning and resources to find the best solution for Ipswich and its residents and businesses as we move forward.

“Meanwhile, we continue to support the most vulnerable. We are beginning to give starter packs to homeless people accessing our temporary accommodation units. These consist of bedding, toys, electronic goods and kitchen utensils and have been paid for by a generous £100,000 donation from Direct Line Group.”

Russell Williams, Chief Executive, Ipswich Borough Council