IBC Coronavirus Update - 22 May 2020

Published22nd May 2020

The Council is issuing an updated statement on its response to Coronavirus every Friday. This is the 10th such statement.

Each of these statements has three sections – as follows:

  1. A short summary of key items

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

  3. 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:

  1. An ‘infographic’ of some current data relating to Ipswich Borough Council’s response to Coronavirus
  2. A series of graphs showing data trends over the last couple of months

  3. A longer list of all the Council’s previous Coronavirus-related decisions (etc) that remain relevant.

A short summary of key items

  • Town centre: The Borough Council and its partners, including the Police, Ipswich Central and Suffolk County Council, are working together on plans to support the re-opening of more businesses within the town centre in a safe manner (i.e. possibly at the start of June - following the Prime Minister’s statement on 10th May).

  • Online fitness: More than 45,000 people have taken part in our 10-day online fitness challenge – part of a sports programme introduced since the closure of our facilities. These live-streamed classes have attracted 150 to each session (www.ipswichfit.co.uk/fitness-classes) and there has been a huge increase in our YouTube subscribers.

  • Public Toilets: We have re-opened some of our public toilets within 5 locations: Christchurch Park, Holywells Park, Major’s Corner, the Lawn Cemetery and Millennium Cemetery.

  • Parks: Our parks and open spaces are much busier now as people make the most of the new rules and we expect that to remain going forward. The Parks Patrol team are continuing to remind visitors of the need to follow the new guidance. Meanwhile, we have reopened skate parks and installed clear safety messaging for users.

  • Allotments: The Council is encouraging people to apply for an allotment. In total, we have more than 2,100 plots on 16 sites in Ipswich. Express an interest online at allotments@ipswich.gov.uk and then arrangements will be made for applicants to meet the relevant Field Secretary (within social distancing guidelines) to arrange a safe handover.

  • Finance: We have submitted a second financial return to the Government, outlining thefinancial impact of the Covid-19 crisis with extra expenditure in April alone of £450,000 and a loss in income of £800,000. The Council is working with partners to lobby for further financial support as the financial impact will continue well beyond the end of April.

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 sit and enjoy the fresh air, 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. The tennis courts at Christchurch Park and at Murray Road Park are now being used, as are the various outdoor multi-use courts in our parks that are used for basketball etc. People are once again using the fishing lake at Chantry Park and the bowls greens on our sites can be used in accordance with social distancing guidelines. Outdoor gym equipment and our play areas remain closed in accordance with the Government instructions. We have started to allow the use of our table tennis tables in Christchurch Park and Holywells Park this week; we have installed sanitising stations beside the tables and have applied signage asking the users to clean the equipment before and after each use. We are finding that our parks and open spaces are much busier now as people make the most of the new rules and we expect that to remain the same whilst the good weather remains. Our Parks Patrol team are where necessary reminding park users of the guidance.
  • Skate Parks: We have started to allow use of the Skate Parks and have installed clear, easy to understand signage designed by Skateboard England and Skateboard GB that reminds users of the need for social distancing and about good hygiene practices.

  • Public Toilets: The Council has re-opened five of our public toilets. These are considered to be those which are used more frequently, where there are hand washing basins, where we believe at this point in time there is a demand and where can supply resource to regularly sanitise them. Initially the opening hours will be limited to 10am to 4pm. These are:

    • Majors Corner: We have opened the disabled toilets for use by all of the general public, with a cleaner on site during the hours it is open and managing a strict one-in, one-out policy and sanitising the cubicle after each use;
    • Christchurch Park: We have opened the disabled toilet within the toilet block that is beside the Kiosk located between Reg Driver Centre & Westerfield Rd entrance, there is a cleaner on site during the hours it is open, managing a strict one-in, one-out policy and sanitising the cubicle after each use.
    • Holywells Park: We have opened the disabled toilet within the toilet block that is beside the play area, there is a cleaner on site during the hours it is open, managing a strict one-in, one-out policy and sanitising the cubicle after each use.
    • Lawn Cemetery: We have opened the toilet block at the Lawn Cemetery.
    • Millennium Cemetery

As the cemetery toilets are much less frequently used – these will receive regular - scheduled visits - to be sanitised over the course of each day – rather than having a continuous cleaning presence. The need for cleaners to be on site at the first three locations will be kept under review and if this initial trial proceeds well, we will over the coming weeks, where we are able to safely do so, we will start to open other public toilets where there are hand washing basins. We urge people to follow social distancing guidelines if there is a queue.

  • Brown Bins: The collection of garden waste in brown bins re-started last week for those residents who usually put their brown bin out with their blue bin. Those residents who normally put their brown bin out at the same time as their black bin have been getting their brown bins collected this week. We have increased our resource with additional trucks and crews in order to cope with the additional numbers of brown bins presented for collection and much heavier weights than usual of material collected. Last week we collected 614 tonnes of garden waste in the brown bins, which as a comparison is a 126% increase in the 272 tonnes collected in the same week last year.
  • Business Grants: Discretionary Fund The Council expects to have around £1.25m to give out via a new Discretionary Grants fund. It is still awaiting final guidance from the Government which it is understood should be out in the next few days. The intention is to launch the new scheme next Friday (29th) with an application process that should enable the vast majority of the monies to be paid out by the end of June. The initial guidance can be accessed at: ssets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/885011/local-authority-discretionary-grants-fund-guidance-local-government.pdf

  • Allotments: There are over 2,100 plots on the 16 allotments sites we have in Ipswich. Our allotments cover in total an area of 60 hectares and all residents are within easy travelling distance of one of them. We are now actively encouraging residents to sign up for an allotment which is easily done by emailing allotments@ipswich.gov.uk, following which the relevant Field Secretary for the allotment site will be in touch to agree a mutually convenient time to meet in accordance with social distancing guidance i.e. only 2 people from different households present to undertake a safe, hygienic handover of the plot maintaining a 2 metre distance at all times. Our allotments are great value for money with a standard plot costing only 87.5p per week.

  • 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 – see point 8 below. 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.
  • Finance Return to Government: The second financial return was submitted to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government by the deadline on Friday 15th May. This report outlined the financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis and broadly stated that the Council incured approximately £450,000 in April and lost predicted income of around £800,000 – i.e. since many services are either closed or demand for some services, like car parking, is dramatically reduced. Furthermore, many local residents and businesses are now struggling to meet council tax and business rate payments due to the crisis. At the moment the Council has received just over £1.4m of Government funding to cover its additional expenditure and losses – and amount that roughly covers additional expenditure and lost income to the end of April. The Council is working with partners to lobby Government for further financial support – pointing out that the financial impact will go on well beyond the end of April.

  • 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: Gecko Theatre www.geckotheatre.com/, Ipswich’s very own award-winning and internationally-acclaimed physical theatre company.  Next Wednesday 27th May at 7pm there will be an online viewing of The Wedding, which the Guardian called “a terrific ensemble at work in a show that bursts with the joy of union.”  The show can be seen at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iZ5rRRuZTo  - and available through Sunday 31/5.  Ipswich Borough Council has been working with Gecko Theatre to deliver a new home for them – the ‘Creation Space’ on the Ipswich Waterfront. 

  • Sources of External Funding for Groups: On 20th May the Government announced further details of funding available to small and medium sized charities (£200m) that willbe administered by the National Lottery Community Fund. The bidding process is due to open today (22nd May). In addition £150 million is being made available from dormant bank and building society accounts to help charities, social enterprises and vulnerable individuals during the coronavirus outbreak. For further information on both funding streams see: www.gov.uk/government/news/government-unlocks-150-million-from-dormant-accounts-for-coronavirus-response.
  • Town Centre Plans for Step 2 of the Government Road-Map: The Prime Minister’s announcements on 10th May 2020 suggests that more shops may be able to open on 1st June 2020. The final decision on this will be the Government’s and should be announced on or before Thursday 28th May 2020. The Borough Council is working 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. Further information on this will be provided next Friday (29th).

  • Online Sports Programme: Since the closure of our sport and leisure facilities we have continued to provide a fitness programme with online classes, here: www.ipswichfit.co.uk/fitness-classes. Our Fitness Team have live-streamed two classes a day and provided daily fitness videos. We have also provided a 10-day challenge of fitness activities.  As a result we have seen over 45,000 people view and participate in these sessions, average over 150 people per class, which is higher than we could ever accommodate physically in one of our leisure centres.  Our subscribers on YouTube and followers on Facebook have significantly increased and reflect huge growth and a continued engagement from existing and potential new customers. We are currently exploring online platform options as a way of providing online fitness videos and classes.  This technology will also allow customers to track their fitness activities, set goals and will allow our instructors to set programmes and other sessions for customers.

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 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 (07736 826104).

A brief comment from the Leader of the Council

“This week we are able for the first time to talk about the first steps towards possible recovery. Plans are under way  to follow Government guidance and re-open the town centre - when the time is right. We are working with partners on proposals to change some road lay-outs to allow people to maintain social distancing as we see more shops re-opening.

“The safety of shoppers and employees will always come first. This has been our priority ever since the lockdown began in March. Most of our public buildings will remain closed while we await further guidance and we continue to stress the importance of social distancing in parks and open spaces.

“We are now on the brink of a second phase in this long campaign against Coronavirus. But before we move on, I want to look back with pride, not only for our own staff who have delivered key services such as HEARs emergency call-outs, bin collections and support for the homeless and vulnerable people but also for Ipswich residents who have displayed such patience and fortitude at this difficult time. Thank you all for your efforts.

“There is still a long way to go and a lot of work to do. Stick with it Suffolk, stick with it Ipswich!”

Councillor David Ellesmere, Leader, Ipswich Borough Council