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IBC Coronavirus Update - 5 June 2020

Published5th June 2020

The Council is issuing an updated statement on its response to Coronavirus every Friday. This is the 12th 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

  • Ipswich Borough Council continues to work with partners on detailed plans to “re-open” the town centre safely from 15th June. These plans include the temporary closure of Upper Brook Street to traffic from 15th June 2020 - between 10.30am and 4.30pm - to support safety and social distancing.
  • We will re-open Crown Car Park on the same day with free parking until 3rd July. Opening hours will be 10.30am to 4.30pm and motorists should not park for longer than five hours.

  • The number of litter bins in Christchurch Park has been significantly increased as more visitors are using outdoor spaces since the easing of lockdown restrictions. We have also increased the number of bins at both Chantry and Holywells Parks. Our Parks Patrol teams continue to offer advice over social distancing guidelines.
  • The Council has been allocated £1.24m to spend on discretionary business grants and is inviting applications from businesses who qualify for the funding.

  • More market traders are expected to operate from next week. Stalls will be spread out to enable customers to follow social distancing guidelines and the market will trade on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
  • The Council is helping St Elizabeth Hospice stage its annual “Suffolk Remembers” fund-raiser, providing the Corn Exchange as a virtual setting for filming and promoting this virtual candle-lit event which will be streamed online on 21st June. This will not involve the public accessing the Corn Exchange for the event.

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 have extended our weekend opening times at the public toilet in Christchurch Park to 7pm, which better suits our park users at the present time. We have found that our parks and open spaces were extremely well used over the weekend that has just passed. As a result we significantly increased the number of litter bins within Christchurch Park for a temporary period. We have also increased the number of bins at both Chantry and Holywells Parks. Our Parks Patrol team are, where necessary, reminding park users of the guidance. Outdoor gym equipment and our play areas remain closed in accordance with the Government instructions.
  • Brown Bins: Last week was the third week of collections of brown bins since we restarted, we were making the second collection of brown bins from those residents who had their bins collected during the first week of the restarted service. We collected 309 tonnes of garden waste last week, which as a comparison is within 1% of the 307 tonnes collected in the same week last year and is about half of the weight of the material collected during the first week of the restarted collections.

  • 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 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. The types of businesses that can apply are:

    • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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. New Wolsey Theatre has curated a fantastic collection called Bounce, their  ‘brand new fortnightly curation of the best arts and culture on the web right now’ – see: www.newwolseybounce.co.uk/. Meanwhile, you can also book for their Christmas Panto!  This year it’s Jack and the Beanstalk, from 26th November www.wolseytheatre.co.uk/shows/jack-the-beanstalk/#prices.

  • Town Centre Plans: 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. On 3rd June the first component of these plans were unveiled – including the decision to close Upper Brook Street between 10:30 and 16:30 to vehicles as a temporary measure to support safety and social distancing. Further information will be provided next week and will be set out on the following websites: www.ipswich.gov.uk/businessratesgrant and ipswichcentral.com.

  • Crown Car Park: We intend to re-open Crown Car Park on the same day that ‘non-essential’ retailers can re-open in the Town Centre -  which is currently planned to be Monday 15th June. The opening hours will initially be 10:30 to 16:30 Monday to Sunday. Use of the car park will be free of charge up to and including 3rd July, although any individual stay should not be longer than 5 hours.

  • Ipswich Market: In accordance with the Government guidance we are allowing more market traders to start trading again and we expect there to be a larger number of stall-holders at the Ipswich Market on Tuesday 9th June with more attending on the Friday and Saturday of that week as well. From our discussions with the traders we expect the number of traders to gradually increase week on week during June. The market will be in its usual position of Princes St, Giles Circus, Butter Market and Queen St, with stalls being spread out further than usual to allow social distancing guidelines to be adhered to for shoppers and passers-by and it will only be trading on a Tuesday, Friday and Saturday until further notice.

  • Sources of External Funding for Groups: 17 sports clubs in Ipswich have received a total of £36,209 from the Sport England Covid-19 Community Emergency Fund, which is designed to support local sports clubs at risk during this period. This works out as an average of £2,129 per club. A total of 19 clubs have applied with 2 not successful. The success rate for Ipswich based clubs has been very high compared to the rest of the county. Full details can be found at www.sportengland.org/how-we-can-help/our-funds/community-emergency-fund.

  • Ipswich Fit Programme: Since the closure of our sport and leisure facilities we have continued to provide a fitness programme with online 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 60,000 people view and participate in these sessions, an average of 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. More information on the classes can be accessed at: www.ipswichfit.co.uk/fitness-classes . The timetable for next week is:

Timetable of classes that can be found at www.ipswichfit.co.uk

  • 'Suffolk Remembers’ with St Elizabeth Hospice: The Council has been working with St Elizabeth Hospice to assist them with their annual ‘Suffolk Remembers’ fundraiser which usually consists of large numbers of candles being lit as part of a well-attended outdoor event. They are holding a virtual event this year encouraging people to donate and participate virtually, with the Council providing them the use of the Corn Exchange Grand Hall within which they will set up the Suffolk Remembers lettering and lighting the candles to be filmed in preparation for the online streaming on 21st June. There will be no public attendance at the Corn Exchange, with filming taking place on Monday and Friday of next week in accordance with all the social distancing guidelines and the risk assessments we have drawn up.
  • Virtual Committee Meetings: The Council has invested in technology to enable “virtual” public meetings, including Planning and Development Committee, Area Committees and Executive to  take place this month. The first three meetings took place earlier this week. Details of all meetings including agendas and the live streams are available on the Council’s website democracy.ipswich.gov.uk.

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 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

Council Leader David Ellesmere said:  “We are continuing to make progress with detailed plans for reopening the town centre from 15th June. The Council is working with many partners on this and we all want to reassure residents and visitors that their safety remains our top priority.

“We expect the town centre to gradually become busier over the next few weeks. To make life easier for visitors and to help support town centre retailers will be offering free parking at Crown Multi-storey from 15th June when non-essential shops start trading again until 3rd July.

“More people are using our parks and open spaces and the vast majority recognise the need to stick to social distancing guidelines. This is essential if we are going to save lives and protect the NHS. Although the lockdown is easing, the pandemic is far from over and the government’s guidance is that popular Council facilities such as the Regent Theatre, sports centres and museums must remain closed until further notice.”

Councillor David Ellesmere, Leader, Ipswich Borough Council