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Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council’s response to Coronavirus – Update

Published on Friday, 22nd May 2020

An update from the Leader, Cllr Julie Jackson, Brent Davis – Executive Director – Operations and Simone Hines – Executive Director – Resources.

We are facing unprecedented times and a situation that is fast moving and constantly evolving. The safety of the public and our staff, together with providing as much support as we can to residents, remain our top priorities and we are striving to keep key services operational during this on-going COVID-19 crisis.

Keeping our services running

Council staff continue to support local residents and keep essential services running despite the challenges faced during this worrying time. Staff have been re-deployed into different areas to facilitate specific needs as they arise.

We have reviewed the latest government ‘Stay Alert’ advice and our contact centres remain closed to customers. We can still provide the same level of service over the phone in most cases, and a wide range of services are available to access online. We will keep this under review and follow the changes in government advice.

We are also aiming to run our first remote council meetings next week which include a Planning Applications Committee meeting and a Cabinet meeting.

Action to protect the most vulnerable

NBBC continues to work in partnership with organisations across Warwickshire to maintain a food distribution hub centre in the Borough and a local helpline to ensure our most vulnerable residents have access to vital supplies. Since distribution started in March, we have made approximately 1850 deliveries of essential food and information packages to those most in need.

If you have been identified as extremely vulnerable, are facing issues related to isolation or have no access to food & support and need help please call 0800 4081447 or NBBC on 02476 376376, visit warwickshire.gov.uk/coronavirusvulnerable for more information.

Housing our homeless

As of 22nd May, and since 23rd March when the COVID19 ‘everyone in’ instruction was issued we have placed 81 households (predominately single people). This is in addition to those households we already had in temporary accommodation prior to 23rd March. The increase in homelessness is an unprecedented situation, not only here in Nuneaton and Bedworth but across the Country as a whole. Of the 81 accommodated since 23rd March, 59 remain in Temporary accommodation, in addition to a further 76 households that were already in temporary homelessness accommodation. The Council has 135 Households in total currently occupying temporary accommodation.

The Council has used a number of its empty properties, furnished and fitted out for temporary self- contained accommodation, enabling households with children in particular, to be able to self-isolate should they need to and to also reduce the risk of infection. The Council’s own Homeless Hostels are predominately occupied now by single person households only, and this is an aim that we will continue to endeavour to achieve.

Following a recent Individual Cabinet Member Decision (ICMD), over the next 9 weeks, the Council will start to ‘Direct Match’ Homeless households into available, unallocated and suitable empty properties. This will relieve the pressure on temporary accommodation and help to rehouse permanently those families the council has a full housing duty to under the Homelessness Legislation.

Following the Government’s announcement about starting to move the Housing Market, we are considering the guidance that has been issued and will determine how best we recommence all other housing allocations in a way that protects both our customers and staff. It is likely that this will not be until after the end of July, in order to comply with the ICMD of 7th May 2020.

If you, or someone you know has nowhere to stay, and are at risk of sleeping rough please contact the council on 02476 376376 for advice. If you spot a rough sleeper please also ring this number.

Housing repairs service

We are continuing to carry out only emergency repairs in tenants’ homes. However, from the week commencing 26 May 2020, we will start to carry out some external repairs and external maintenance programmes where it is safe to do so.

Risk assessments will be carried out to ensure the safety of our employees and tenants in line with the ‘Staying COVID -19 Secure in 2020’ document which was issued by the Health and Safety Executive. The five steps to safer working together are clearly stated within this document.

It continues to be a priority to protect residents and our employees from potential threats of COVID-19.  Therefore, work will not currently be undertaken where access into the property is required, with the exception of emergency repairs and essential maintenance such as gas safety checks. This will be kept under review and we aim to resume more services as soon as it is safe to do so.

As more guidance is released we will be working with our employees to provide a safe way; through risk assessment and consultation, to resume some internal repairs in early June 2020. This will be a gradual process as we start to get through the back log caused by COVID-19. Residents will be contacted by our repairs team well in advance of any works being carried out.

Waste management

Our bin collection services are all running as normal. We are seeing an increase in waste presented for collection due to more of our residents being at home, which is causing some additional pressure to service delivery. We are therefore asking our residents to please ensure everything that can be recycled is (please visit nuneatonandbedworth.gov.uk/recycleright for the guide to recycling at home), and we also ask that composting at home is utilised where possible; especially if residents are not signed up to the green bin service - Warwickshire County Council offer composter deals with delivery to your door, please visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/composting for more information. We also please ask that residents continue to ensure bins are presented by 7am on collection day, as collection times may vary.

Rather than starting the working day at the Council’s Depot, our cleansing operatives are travelling direct to their litter picking routes in order to reduce personnel at the Council’s operational depot, and bin collection operatives are being collected on route where possible.

Judkins Recycling Centre in Nuneaton has reopened and you can book for essential visits here: www.warwickshire.gov.uk/directory-record/320/judkins-recycling-centre-nuneaton

The bulky waste collection service resumed on Monday 18th May, with certain precautions and restrictions in place to ensure the service can be carried out safely. Please visit the website to read the guidance and make a booking.

Parks and open spaces

Our parks and open spaces remain open for public use, as a means of exercise and to support mental wellbeing. However, we must ask that you follow the Government rules to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure that we can continue to keep these areas open.

The government guidelines state:

  • You can still make use of parks, either alone or with members of your household or by one person meeting one other person from outside your household group
  • Households are asked to use parks responsibly and follow social distancing rules, by keeping 2 metres apart from others outside your household group at all times
  • Unless you are with members of your household, gatherings of more than two people in parks and other public spaces have been banned. The police have the powers to disperse gatherings and issue fines if necessary

If using parks & open spaces, you must also follow this guidance:

  • Do not visit a park if you or any member of your household have any symptoms – fever, cough or shortness of breath. Follow NHS guidelines if you do develop any of these symptoms or become unwell
  • If the park looks crowded, do not enter if you cannot safely observe social distancing. You could try visiting the park at different times (earlier/later) and try to use all areas of the park that remain open, so you can maintain an appropriate distance from others
  • Where possible, avoid touching surfaces (such as gates, hand-rails or seating) and your mouth and face. Please follow hand washing advice from Public Health England, including washing your hands as soon as you get home
  • Do not use areas of the park that have been closed, such as play areas and outdoor gyms, these are closed for your safety

Sports facilities 

The following council sports facilities within our parks and open spaces are now open, they are available for group use by members of the same household, however, new government guidelines also allow one person to meet one other person from outside their household to play a non-contact sport outdoors, such as tennis, government advice is that they stay more than 2 metres apart.

  • Tennis / Netball courts (excluding those at The Pingles Leisure Centre, which remains closed at this time)
  • Basketball courts (within Multi-Use Games Areas)
  • Golf, Foot Golf and Disc Golf courses

Please note that there is currently no equipment provision and users will need to bring their own. 

Grounds Maintenance

Following the triaging of grounds maintenance operations in March & April in response to COVID - 19, we have during May been reintroducing our normal maintenance frequencies. These have been phased in where the social distancing guidance from the government can be observed, to ensure staff & contractors are able to work safely. For those wishing to find out when maintenance operations are due in their area, details can be found on our contractor’s microsite, by following the link below:

nuneatonandbedworth.glendalelocal.co.uk/glendale-live

Cemeteries

It has been agreed that from Tuesday 26 May, an increased number of mourners will be allowed at burial services. 6 mourners will be allowed at the graveside, and a further 10 within reasonable distance of 5 meters.

All other requirements set in place remain the same in line with updated Government guidelines.

  • Adequate distance should be observed when travelling together to the cemetery.
  • Individuals displaying symptoms should isolate and not attend.
  • Those who are vulnerable or high risk are advised to remain safe however if attending funerals, they should be supported by making other attendees aware.
  • Backfilling of graves can only be carried out by Cemetery operatives and observed at a safe distance as required.

These measures are in place to ensure the safety of families and employees present at a funeral.

Continuing with key projects

Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council and its key partner in the programme, Warwickshire County Council, continue to look to the future to deliver the Transforming Nuneaton programme.

Work has continued to bring on board a Development Partner to deliver change and improvement at the Abbey Street end of Nuneaton Town centre. With the appointment of Queensberry as its partner, the Borough Council continues to move closer to making the transformation of Nuneaton town centre a reality and bring real opportunities to the Borough.

Queensberry is a market-leading urban regeneration company specialising in mixed use regenerations schemes across the UK.

The Borough Council is also continuing to work hard on refining our businesses cases for submission to the Future High St and Towns Fund.

Supporting local businesses & suppliers

Business Grants and Council Tax Payments

The Revenue and Systems Teams are continuing to work hard to get the applicable grants paid as soon as possible, but to do that, businesses have to complete the required form which can be found at:

https://www.nuneatonandbedworth.gov.uk/business-grant

So far we have been able to pay 90% of Businesses eligible for the award.

Please note that in these challenging times if you are self-employed or run your own business, NBBC is working closely with Warwickshire County Council and other partners to offer advice and support to businesses throughout the county.

If you are struggling to pay your Council Tax payments due to financial reasons, please contact us so we can discuss your options, email:

Recovery.section@nuneatonandbedworth.gov.uk to discuss payments options.

Sign up now to receive faster updates on your business rates via the NBBC Portal here: www.nuneatonandbedworth.gov.uk/view-bills-benefits

Discretionary Grant Fund Scheme

The government announced on 1st May that a new scheme will be aimed to support small businesses who were not eligible for assistance under the previous grant scheme.

The scheme was to be provided with a level of funding and this week each local authority was informed of how much their level of funding was.

The government has now provided guidance on who will benefit from the schemes, including a list of business all local authorities nationally are being asked to prioritise. We are working closely with other authorities across Coventry and Warwickshire and our software provider to ensure consistency and prompt payment following any decision to make the award.

We will be putting out information on our website on the scope of our Discretionary Grant Scheme and how to claim shortly.

Business advice

We have issued advice for businesses of the action they need to take to avoid the growth of Legionella bacteria in their water systems whilst the business is closed, read the article here.

Supporting our Suppliers

We want to reassure you that Nuneaton and Bedworth Council is treating the payment of its suppliers as a critical process.

We recognise that COVID-19 is unprecedented and will have a significant impact on our suppliers of all sizes therefore, if you currently send paper invoices to Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, we ask that you switch to sending invoices electronically. Paper invoices received through the post will of course continue to be processed, but may inevitably take longer.

Please email your invoices to invoices@nuneatonandbedworth.gov.uk with all necessary supporting documents.  This will help us reduce any delays in processing for payment.

Please note that this mailbox is for invoices only, if your query relates to anything else relating to payment of invoices then please email creditors@nuneatonandbedworth.gov.uk.

For any other queries, please ensure that you email the correct department – contact details can be found on other pages within our website: www.nuneatonandbedworth.gov.uk

Supporting our Market Traders

Markets will continue to sell essential items until further notice. We are also continuing to support our market traders with the suspension of market rent to help reduce the financial strain that traders may face.

Supporting residents and key workers

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support

The Benefits and Systems Teams have been working on a range of changes announced by the government to help support people who are struggling to pay their rent and their Council Tax.

Also, for customers in receipt of Housing Benefit a change in the level of Working Tax Allowance has been taken into account and customers have received their letters regarding this change.

We have recently awarded credits to Council Tax Support Customer Accounts and customers will start to receive their new bills any day now.

We are still working hard on the change to the Working Tax Allowance for customers who are currently in receipt of Council Tax Support. The Teams are working with our system software suppliers to be able to action this final change.

We will be in touch with everyone who will be affected as soon as possible. In the meantime if you are struggling financially, you can contact the Council-

Benefits.section@nuneatonandbedworth.gov.uk to discuss claiming assistance 

Sign up now to receive faster updates on your benefits via the NBBC Portal here: www.nuneatonandbedworth.gov.uk/view-bills-benefits

Supporting Key Workers

Free parking is still available in the Borough for public sector essential workers via their employers.

Staying safe & connected

As well as our social media channels, we have a wealth of information on our website to keep you up to date with service disruptions as well as links to government services and third party advice including advice on domestic abuse, how to avoid scams, ways to look after your mental health, and staying active as well as much more. Follow @NBBCouncil on Twitter & Facebook or visit nuneatonandbedworth.gov.uk/coronavirus.

The Museum & Art Gallery continues to find new ways to offer access to cultural experiences with their fantastic digital interactive services. Follow @nuneatonmuseum on Facebook & Instagram or visit nuneatonandbedworth.gov.uk/museum.

Last week we saw some of the Government guidance change and the advice is summarised below, to stay up to date with the latest advice please visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Stay alert

We can all help control the virus if we all stay alert. This means you must:

  • stay at home as much as possible
  • work from home if you can
  • limit contact with other people
  • keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
  • wash your hands regularly

Do not leave home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.