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Call for workers to return thwarted by social distancing rules

PUBLISHED: 05:30 21 August 2020

During Thursday's fine weather the Cornhill in Ipswich was busy - but Ipswich Central want more office staff to be using the shops and cafes. Picture: PAUL GEATER

During Thursday's fine weather the Cornhill in Ipswich was busy - but Ipswich Central want more office staff to be using the shops and cafes. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Archant

The appeal by Ipswich Central for major businesses to bring their employees back to the town centre has been met with sympathy by many of the largest organisations in the area – but with a warning there is little they can do while current government regulations remain in place.

Ipswich Central Chairman Terry Baxter called on businesses to try to bring staff back to work to give a boost to footfall in the heart of the town which has still not recovered from the effects of lockdown.

Suffolk County Council is one of the largest employers in the town – but its Endeavour House headquarters in Russell Road remains closed to all but a skeleton staff. Council leader Matthew Hicks said he fully understood why Ipswich Central were appealing for people to return but said the authority could not do anything to risk the safety of the public and its staff.

He said: “Our staff have been working effectively from home and we could only get a small percentage in the office with the social distancing regulations. We hope people will support local businesses, but we cannot put people at risk.”

MORE: Ipswich Central asks businesses to bring staff back to offices

Ipswich council also has most of its staff working from home. Portfolio holder for the town centre Sarah Barber said: “We hope people do return to the town centre to support the businesses there, but it is vital that we do nothing that could lead to more cases of the virus and a local lockdown.”

Last month a spokesman for Willis said it was planning a phased return to the office for some staff, but they had been working well from home. He said the position at the company had not changed.

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Mr Baxter said that he had not expected everyone to return to their offices immediately but hoped companies would try to encourage as many people as possible to return to their normal workplace.

He said: “We know there are regulations and not everyone can return to their workplace at once – but if we could get as many as possible back in the town centre that would be a very good start.

“These are tough times and businesses need all the support they can get – and if employers encourage their staff to go back to their workplace if possible that would be a great start for the town.”


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