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IBC Coronavirus Update - 29 May 2020

Published29th 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

  • The Council expects to have around £1.24 million to give out via a new Discretionary Grant fund. The 8 categories of businesses that can apply are announced today – the application process will launch next week.
  • We have cancelled all our events in parks and open spaces until the end of October. We cannot predict the future around the progress of the pandemic and social distancing and had to act now to avoid booking costs.

  • The Council continues to work with its partners on plans to support the re-opening of ‘non-essential’ shops in the town centre from 15th June in line with Government announcements. These plans are likely to be announced next week.
  • Parks are continuing to be busier as more people use them to relax and to exercise in. We have now re-opened skateparks and have allowed the use of the BMX track in Landseer Park but use – like parks and open spaces in general – continues to be subject to social distancing guidelines.

  • The Gateway to Home Choice housing allocation system will restart on 4th June 2020. The website can be accessed here: /www.gatewaytohomechoice.org.uk. Via this web-site, available affordable homes (Council Homes and homes owned by Registered Social Landlords) will be advertised and people will be able to ‘bid’ for them.

  • The Council has now delivered 465 food parcels to 285 households not in the national ‘shielding’ group. We have accommodated 125 homeless people and continue to distribute starter packs using funds donated by the Direct Line Group.

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. This week we have allowed the BMX track within Landseer Park to re-open – with users following the relevant social distancing guidelines. 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. The kiosk in Christchurch Park has re-opened between noon and 5pm every day – social distancing is in place and payments are by card only.
  • Public Toilets: Last week, the Council re-opened five of our public toilets. These are at Majors Corner, Christchurch Park (beside the Kiosk), Holywells Park (beside the play area), Lawn Cemetery and Millennium Cemetery. We have changed our opening times at Christchurch Park to 11am to 5pm as it became clear very quickly that the public still required the use of them and were still queuing at the point we had planned to close them, but weren’t making much use of them mid-morning. The other toilets that are open can be used between 10am and 4pm.

  • Brown Bins: Those residents who normally put their brown bin out at the same time as their black bin had their brown bins collected last week. The Council collected 677 tonnes of garden waste in the brown bins last week, which as a comparison is a 132% increase in the 292 tonnes collected in the same week last year. In total over the first two weeks of collecting brown bins again we collected 1,291 tonnes of material, compared to 564 tonnes in the same period last year which is a 129% increase. We are, this week, starting the 2nd full cycle of brown bin collections and expect this 2nd collection for residents to still result in increased amounts of material as many residents will have additional stored material that they were not able to put in their brown bin on the first collection.

  • Local Authority Discretionary Grant Fund: The Council has been allocated £1.24m to spend on discretionary grants. It has now decided upon the categories of businesses that it expects to support via this scheme. The businesses fall into two types. Firstly those specified within the Government guidance, namely:

    • 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.

There are further qualifying rules associated with this scheme – and an application will need to be made. The full rules will be launched next week (5th June 2020). Each business will receive up to £10,000 depending on their category, their rent and the ability they have had (or not had) to trade since lockdown started in March 2020.

  • Housing: The Gateway to Home Choice housing allocation system restarts on 4th June 2020. The website can be accessed here: https://www.gatewaytohomechoice.org.uk/. This means that from 4th June, available affordable homes (Council Homes and homes owned by Registered Social Landlords) will be advertised again and people will be able to bid on them as before. As normal, viewings and allocations will happen a week later, as usual. Previous users of the system will be contacted where we have an email address to advise them of the restart. Where needed, our housing team will assist any new applicants.
  • 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. 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.

  • 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. One of the latest additions to Ipswich is the Russell Maliphant Dance Company russellmaliphantdancecompany.com/ which has been in residence at the Jerwood DanceHouse along with DanceEast, for two years now.  Each week they have been posting a new performance on their digital archive.  This week is Push, a duet produced with Sadler’s Wells.  Also still available is a performance of Silent Lines – produced and filmed in Ipswich with five exceptional dancers.  All can be seen on their YouTube channel at: www.youtube.com/channel/UCMcSIDtt1khomAROlNkoV_Q

  • Town Centre Plans for Step 2 of the Government Road-Map: The Prime Minister announced on 25th May 2020 that non-essential retail stores may now be allowed to re-open on 15th June 2020. This is two weeks later than previously suggested. 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. Following the announcement of the new date – the 15th – it is now planned to provide further information on the local response next week (e.g. within the Council’s statement on 5th June).
  • Events: The Council has cancelled all its outdoor events planned to take place in its parks and in public spaces between now and the end of October. These include Ipswich Music Day, Maritime Ipswich, Global Rhythm, Indian Summer Mela, One Big Multicultural Festival, Family Fun Days, Outdoor Cinemas and Pantaloons Theatre. We will also be cancelling the Crafted Classique bike ride. Other events, organised by third parties, are not affected by this announcement. This decision has been taken because it is hard to envisage how any major, mass gathering, public events can be held safely and successfully as long as some form of social distancing remains in place. We had kept this year’s programme under review but without clarity on what the rules might be over the summer and autumn we could not confirm bookings with suppliers. For up to date details about event cancellations and postponements, please visit: www.ipswichentertains.co.uk.

  • Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Drivers: The Council will be writing to all licensed drivers today (29th May 2020), letting them know how they can renew their annual licences via direct debit – spread over 12 months rather than in one go at the start of their licence year. Drivers are also being reminded of national schemes of support - and - how to suspend their licences if they do not wish to trade at this time.
  • 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 will be administered by the National Lottery Community Fund. The bidding process is now open. Funding is being prioritised to: (i) organisations supporting people and communities who experience disproportionate challenge and difficulty as a result of the COVID-19 crisis; (ii) organisations providing services and support for vulnerable people, for which there will be increased demand as a result of the COVID-19 crisis; and, (iii) organisations which connect communities and support communities to work together to respond to COVID-19. Applicants can seek funding from £300 to more than £10,000. For more information see: www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/funding/covid-19/learn-about-applying-for-emergency-funding-in-england.

  • Ipswich Market: The Council will shortly be contacting all regular stall holders with a view to the full market (e.g. including non-food stalls) re-starting from 9th June 2020. Once we have a clear idea of the level of interest of stall holders we will plan the market layout in detail and work with the stall holders on social distancing proposals. Final details will be announced before the end of next week.

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

“We continue to look ahead as the recovery phase of the emergency gathers pace. Our key services are being maintained – as they have been since the lockdown was imposed in March – and now we are preparing to take new measures in line with Government guidance.

“Like every other council across the country we need to ensure that, as the lockdown restrictions ease, we keep residents’ safety as our top priority. More shops should resume trading next month and we are working hard with our partners to maintain safe spaces, particularly in the town centre.

“I am very pleased that we are able to restart the allocation process for council housing next week. Lockdown has been hard for everyone but for those stuck waiting in unsuitable accommodation it has been even tougher.

“I remain proud of the Borough Council’s response to the virus and the challenges it has brought. These challenges will be around for months to come and we will continue to support people, communities and businesses over this difficult time.”

Councillor David Ellesmere, Leader, Ipswich Borough Council