IBC Coronavirus Update - 26 June 2020

Published26th June 2020

The Council is issuing an updated statement on its response to Coronavirus every Friday. This is the 15th 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

  • Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Tuesday 23rd June, we are doing safety inspections to enable our play areas, outdoor gyms and trim trails to re-open on 4th July 2020.
  • We have submitted a third financial return to the Government, outlining the financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis and we are forecast to spend £3.9m more on services this year alongside a loss of income (excluding any reduction in Council Tax or Business Rate receipts) of £5.8m. The Council is working with partners to lobby for further financial support.

  • Over the last 12 weeks we have housed 50 rough sleepers and homeless people at a hotel. 44 of the 50 now have personal plans and are currently in supported accommodation, with family, private or social rented housing or Bed & Breakfasts. 
  • We continue to work in partnership with Ipswich foodbanks and have helped deliver 497 food parcels since 30th March. This is on top of the 580 we have to delivered to 342 households not in the shielded group from a temporary food bank that the Council set up at Gainsborough Sports Centre.

  • We have received 103 applications from businesses eligible for Discretionary Grants of up to £10,000. The closing date for applications is today. Payments to successful applicants should start being made in the next fortnight. We anticipate widening the scheme to other business sectors – a new Policy for this will be considered at the Council’s Executive meeting on 14th July.

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.
  • Outdoor gym equipment and play areas: These remain closed in accordance with the Government instructions, although we have now started undertaking safety inspections in readiness for allowing them to be used again from 4th July. The statement next week will provide an update on this. We have over 800 individual pieces of equipment in the 96 play areas we maintain. We also have 7 outdoor fitness areas that consist of 3 outdoor gyms and 4 Trim Trails. We will, on 4th July be able to open – for the first time - the fully redeveloped local play area at Dumbarton Road Recreation Ground which has a transportation theme consisting of a suspension bridge, train, boat, car and road, with swings, roundabout, seesaw and springers mounted on a safer impact absorbent surface within a fenced area. Redevelopment of the destination play area at Christchurch Park is continuing and we expect this to be completed and ready for use in early August.

  • Town Centre Footfall: The Council has been providing weekly information on town centre footfall data throughout lockdown. That data is contained within the graph pack published alongside this statement. With many ‘non-essential’ shops opening for the first time on Monday 15th June, the first week (from 15th to 21st) saw footfall numbers about 20% up on the previous week and more than double the numbers using the town centre at the height of the lockdown in April.

  • Crown Car Park: In the first week of the town centre re-opening we have seen usage of our car parks increase by over 200% when compared to the previous week – an increase of 5,800 stays. There were just under 4,500 stays in Crown Car Park last week, which equates to 65% of the usage at the same period last year – or only a 35% reduction on last year. So far indications for usage this week are encouraging with stays on Monday and Tuesday of this week being 25% higher than last week. Paid usage of William Street car park also increased last week and that was at 40% of the same period last year. Upper Orwell Street South had increased usage last week and was at 50% of the same period last year. The Regent car park also had increased usage and was at 41% of the same period last year.
  • Corn Exchange Toilets: We have opened the toilets within the Corn Exchange Limelight Bar for general public use (for the period up until 3rd July 2020). The toilets are open 7 days a week 10:30am to 4:30pm, with access to them from the King Street entrance which is attended by a member of our team. 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. Last week, we had 914 people make use of this toilet provision, with the busiest day being Saturday when 257 people used them and the quietest day was Sunday with 64 uses. We are seeing usage increase further this week with 319 people in total on Monday and Tuesday, which is more than double that of last week.

  • 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 today (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 (24th June) the Council has received 103 applications for a Discretionary Grant. Payments to the successful applicants should start being made in the next fortnight. The Council believes it will still have some money left and will be widening its scheme to other business sectors – a new Policy (for this second phase) will be considered at the Council’s Executive meeting on 14th July 2020.

  • 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.
  • Finance Return to Government: The third financial return was submitted to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government by the deadline on Friday 19th June. This report outlined the financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis and broadly stated that the Council is forecast to spend approximately £3.9m more this year on services and expects to lose income of around £5.8m across the financial year. In addition, 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 is going to stretch well beyond the first quarter of the financial year (i.e. April to June 2020).

  • Sources of External Funding: The Red Cross have created a Hardship Fund with their partner Aviva and the Aviva Foundation. The fund can provide short term financial help for people who can’t afford essentials such as: food and toiletries, somewhere safe to sleep, access to a telephone and the internet and fuel to keep the lights on, cook or stay warm. Further information can be found at: hardshipfund.redcross.org.uk.

  • 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. The Smokehouse www.thesmokehouse.org is a live music venue just off Norwich Road, which last year organised the hugely successful Sound City festival in the town centre. They will be hosting a whole day of live streaming, pre-recorded concerts and industry interviews on Thursday 9th July (accessed via the above web-address). The Smokehouse has been closed since Monday 16th March however they have helped keep the region's musical talent busy by launching LOCK EAST where regional artists can submit and share their work – about fifty can be seen there now.
  • Hotel Block Booking: The Council had block booked a hotel to support the services it provided to rough sleepers and homeless people during the coronavirus pandemic. Our block booking finished this week. Over the last 12 weeks we housed 50 people at various times at the hotel. The 24 people who were staying there at the end of this period all had personal plans and have successfully moved on to supported accommodation, with family, private or social rented housing or Bed & Breakfasts.  We continue to work with people who are homeless or rough sleeping and an announcement on the 24th June by the Government relating to ‘funding support for those in emergency accommodation and EEA Rough Sleepers’ may provide the Council with further flexibilities to effectively support these people.

  • Response to Prime Ministers Re-Opening Announcement on 23rd June 2020: The announcement on Tuesday (23rd) means that the Council will be able to re-open some more of the services / activities it provides. For instance, plans associated with play areas and outdoor gyms are set out at point 2 above. The new rules mean that we could also open a few other buildings (e.g. Ipswich Museum) from 4th July but we will not be rushing to do so since we want to make sure we have all relevant Covid-Secure measures in place first and that buildings can be operated safely for customers and staff as well as effectively in terms of their core purpose. Many of our other facilities (e.g. indoor gyms and swimming pools) remain on the list of facilities that legally will have to remain shut until an unknown date beyond 4th July 2020. We will provide an update on our plans within each of our weekly statements.
  • Licensing and Sitting Out Areas outside Bars and Cafes: The Government advice for restaurants, bars, pubs and takeaways that are looking to open from 4th July 2020 is set out at www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/restaurants-offering-takeaway-or-delivery. The Council is working with its partners in preparing for the 4th July. The Council’s main area of responsibility relates to licensing and applications for sitting out areas.  Yesterday (25th June) the Government issued a press release setting out their intention to amend the rules in these areas: www.gov.uk/government/news/government-outlines-support-for-pubs-cafes-and-restaurants?utm_source=d3fc5f25-9b19-4109-a6d0-77f1f2ed37ae&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate. The Council will provide more information on this as soon as possible next week – this will be set out with in the Coronavirus part of our web-site (www.ipswich.gov.uk/coronavirus).

  • Food Bank: Ipswich Borough Council has delivered 580 food parcels to 343 properties since the Coronavirus ‘lockdown’ started. We did this from a foodbank we ran from Gainsborough Sports Centre. These were to people who are not in the shielded group but who are unable to access food any other way and contacted us on the Home But Not Alone phone number. This Gainsborough service stopped on Friday 19th June 2020, however, the Council will continue to work in close partnership with FIND - and other food banks in the area - by continuing to assist with deliveries for the next four weeks. In addition to the 580 deliveries above the Council has also helped with 497 deliveries for Ipswich food banks, since the 30th March 2020.

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 5 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.

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

“The gradual re-opening of our town centre continues and recent Government announcements mean that there will be more businesses opening from next weekend. We will continue to work with our partners to support the local economy to restart in a safe manner.

“We know that many businesses have suffered financial hardship during lockdown so I am pleased that we have had more than 100 application to our Local Discretionary Grant scheme from firms that weren’t eligible for grants under the Government’s national schemes. We are now planning a second phase of this scheme which will expand the types of businesses that can benefit even further.

“It’s not just private businesses that are suffering though. In common with every other council in the country, Ipswich Borough Council is facing a huge financial black hole cause by increased expenditure tackling the effects of Coronavirus and reduced income. We currently estimate that the deficit will be about £10m for this financial year. So far the Government has only covered £1.4m of the deficit. We are working on an emergency budget for our July Full Council meeting – before then I hope that the Government will have announced a major new package of funding for local councils such as Ipswich Borough. Without substantial extra Government funding, we will almost inevitably have to make some cuts in services.

“Throughout the coming months, public safety must remain paramount. We still need to keep following the rules: maintain our distance, wear a face covering where appropriate and wash our hands regularly.”

Councillor David Ellesmere, Leader, Ipswich Borough Council

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