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IBC Coronavirus Update - 3 July 2020

Published3rd July 2020

The Council is issuing an updated statement on its response to Coronavirus every Friday. This is the 16th 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

  • In line with Government guidance, we will be reopening our play areas, outdoor gyms and trim trails on 4th July. Safety inspections have been carried out across 96 play areas, 3 outdoor gyms and 4 Trim Trails to ensure that they are safe to use following three months of closures. Signage will be in place to advise users how to use the areas safely.
  • More public toilets in our parks will open on 4th July with an enhanced level of cleaning.

  • We have received 119 applications from businesses eligible for Discretionary Grants of up to £10,000. The closing date for applications was last week. Payments to successful applicants should start being made next week. 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.
  • Restaurants, bars, pubs and takeaways will start to reopen from 4th July 2020 and we are working with partners to prepare. We are waiting for the Business and Planning Bill to become law so that we can implement a streamlined process for licensing sitting out areas. More information will be provided in due course. 

  • The free parking offer at Crown car park ends on Friday 3rd July. Normal tariffs will apply from 4th July 2020.

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. We expect them to be busier over the next couple of weeks as families make use of the re-opened play areas. Government guidance published last week states that public toilets should be kept open and carefully managed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, we have already opened public toilets in Christchurch park and in Holywells Park. In addition, we will be opening public toilets in our other parks on 4th July with an enhanced level of cleaning being provided. We are intending on re-opening the Reg Driver Centre and the reception building at Holywells Park in early August.
  • Outdoor gym equipment and play areas: We have over 800 individual pieces of equipment in the 96 play areas we maintain and we have 7 outdoor fitness areas that consist of 3 outdoor gyms and 4 Trim Trails. Our parks team have been working hard to ensure that our play areas and outdoor gyms can be opened for use on 4th July. This has involved cutting the grass, inspecting each piece of equipment, preparing risk assessments and determining the appropriate signage to make it clear to users what is expected of them. The Government guidance for managing playgrounds and outdoor gyms gives practical advice on how these can be reopened and managed effectively to enable their use while minimising the transmission risk of COVID-19. This includes consideration of how to put in place measures such as: (a) cleaning regimes for high traffic touch points; (b) supporting social distancing with signs to remind users of the need for and adherence to social distancing; (c) signage to communicate maximum number of users at one time (d) requests those using the play area to only have 1 family member accompanying a child; and, (e) encouragement of effective sanitation by users, parents, guardians and carers, reminding adults and children not to put their mouths on equipment or their hands in their mouths. We have, in accordance with the guidance, needed to temporarily remove some swings in our play areas to provide additional space between users. 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, so although there is another month to wait before this redeveloped play area can be enjoyed, we feel sure it will be worth the wait.

  • Crown Car Park: In the second week of the town centre re-opening we have seen usage of our car parks increase by 12% when compared to the previous week – an increase of over 1,000 stays. There were just under 5,300 stays in Crown Car Park last week, which equates to 68% of the usage at the same period last year – or only a 32% reduction on last year. We are seeing usage of Crown car park increase further this week with stays on Monday and Tuesday of this week being 57% higher than last week. As previously announced, charges for parking at Crown car park will be reinstated on Saturday 4th July.
  • Corn Exchange Toilets: We have opened the toilets within the Corn Exchange Limelight Bar for general public use. 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 1,043 people make use of this toilet provision, this was a 14% increase on the previous week, with the busiest day being Saturday when 190 people used them and the quietest day was Thursday with 96 uses. These toilets were scheduled to close to public use on Friday 3rd July as previously announced but following discussions with Ipswich Central we will keep them open over the weekend of 4th and 5th July and they will close from 6th July - as we are expecting other town centre businesses to be opening their toilets over the weekend and next week.

  • Local Authority Discretionary Grant Fund: The Council was allocated £1.24m to spend on discretionary grants. The scheme launched on Friday 5th June and closed for applications on Friday 26th June. The Council received 119 applications by the closing date. The maximum grant given out will be £10,000. Payments to the successful applicants should start being made next week. 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.
  • 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.  The Council is awaiting the Business and Planning Bill to become law before it can implement the streamlined process being proposed within it. The Council will provide more information on this as soon as the Bill becomes law – this will be set out with in the Coronavirus part of our web-site (www.ipswich.gov.uk/coronavirus).

  • 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 June, the Government announced an additional £105m to support emergency accommodation – the Council awaits the details of how much of that £105m will be allocated to Ipswich. 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. On 2nd July 2020 the Government announced an additional package of support for councils although it is not yet clear how much funding will go to each council.

  • Sources of External Funding: Norfolk County Council are administering an £800,000 fund aimed at smaller Voluntary and Community Sector organisations based in Norfolk and Suffolk who are working at a community level with those who are furthest from the jobs market because they are: (a) 16-25 but not in education, employment or training (NEET); (b) older adults who have been long-term unemployed; (c) facing other barriers to work but can move into employment or self-employment with the right support; (d) traditionally disadvantaged or discriminated against when it comes to finding work; and / or, (e) in need of support to become confident and ready for employment and/or formal learning and skills provision. Grants are available up to a maximum of £20,000 per project. More information is available via: www.liftprogramme.co.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. This week, the spotlight is on Red Rose Chain Theatre Company (RRC), based at The Avenue Theatre in Gippeswyk Park.  RRC is an independent, not-for-profit theatre company which runs community projects and an education programme alongside professional productions.   Every year they run their popular Theatre in the Forest programme – this year they have Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night ‘at home’ on 1st August, for more information see: redrosechain.com/theatre-in-the-forest-at-home.  They also have two episodes of Jack and the Beanstalk you can see now, together with a downloadable activity pack, at: redrosechain.com/jackandthebeanstalk.

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 4 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

“Tomorrow will see the re-opening of many cafes, restaurants and pubs. We will continue to work with our partners to support the local economy to restart in a safe manner. I know many people will be looking forward to having a drink in their local pub but we all need to continue following social distancing guidelines. I’m sure many families will be pleased that play areas will be re-opening too. We are continuing to invest in our play areas, for instance at Dumbarton Road where there will be some great new equipment to welcome children back.

“On Monday we will publish our plans to address the huge financial black hole in the Council’s budge caused 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. There will be some challenging proposals within our plans – and I am working hard with other council leaders to lobby Government to provide more funding. The Government made an announcement of more funding yesterday but we await the details of how this will affect Ipswich Borough.”

Councillor David Ellesmere, Leader, Ipswich Borough Council

 

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