We are now entering the fourth week of restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus.
I thought it might be useful to give some more detail about how Ipswich Borough Council is operating in these unprecedented circumstances.
Our top priority is to maintain the delivery of key services to Ipswich residents and businesses.
In line with Government instructions, we have closed many council facilities such as closed sports centres, swimming pools, the Corn Exchange and Regent.
The only other major service affected is the collection of brown bins. I know this is an inconvenience, but it is essential for public health reasons – despite staff being off work due to illness and self-isolation – that we retain enough capacity to continue to empty black bins.
As things currently stand, we still have enough people at work in our fantastic bin crews to continue emptying both black and blue bins and don’t see this having to change over the coming week.
Wherever possible we are seeking to redeploy staff from council facilities that have closed down. Well over 100 people are now currently working in a different area to their normal job.
One reason for redeployment is to boost existing services that are facing more demand such our 24-hour a day Emergency Services Centre, the HEARS community alarm service, sheltered housing schemes and parks patrols who are ensuring that social distancing measures are observed.
Two particular areas we have bolstered are in staff able to take phone queries from residents and in processing benefits claims. As firms lay off staff, we are seeing new claims running at more than double the normal rate and it is essential we get help to these people as soon as possible.
We are also using redeployed staff to meet new demands such as implementing the Government’s business grants scheme. We have already paid out more than £10m to hard-pressed local businesses.
Around 40 people are also now helping to distribute food to vulnerable households.
I am incredibly proud of the way Ipswich Borough Council staff have, largely unseen, stepped up to the challenge of supporting Ipswich through this crisis. They are fully deserving of inclusion in our round of applause on Thursday evenings.