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New figures show number of people going into Ipswich town centre during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 12:37 03 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:37 03 April 2020

The number of people in Ipswich town centre has fallen dramatically. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The number of people in Ipswich town centre has fallen dramatically. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

The impact of the coronavirus lockdown on the numbers of people heading into Ipswich town centre has been outlined in new figures.

Footfall sensors installed by Ipswich Borough Council show that the number has fallen by 70% since the lockdown began – an expected drop as people listen to the advice about social distancing and staying at home.

Those that are still venturing into the heart of town are thought to be people living nearby – including the Waterfront – to buy basic supplies from town centre supermarkets like Sainsburys, Waitrose and the Marks and Spencer foodhall.

Fewer than 4,000 people were recorded in the town centre on Tuesday. Three weeks earlier the figure had been 14,000 on the Tuesday.

The town’s market has now been suspended until after the lockdown is over. Earlier this week Catchey’s fruit and veg stall decided it could not continue. Now the other food stalls have decided they can no longer continue trading. A council spokesman stressed: “This was not a decision we made. The stallholders simply felt they were not able to continue at present.”

It has been estimated that nearly 20,000 people live near enough to the town centre to do their normal shopping there by foot – and the figures also record people from the town centre walking to Christchurch or Alexandra Parks for their daily exercise.

More on the coronavirus crisis

The council is continuing to enforce no parking rules – but its enforcement officers have been told to use “common sense” and prioritise preventing obstructive or dangerous parking which could make life difficult for emergency vehicles.

Scores of council staff in jobs which are not currently needed have been transferred to other roles like supporting those in sheltered housing that are needed during the crisis.

Council decisions are now being taken by chief executive Russell Williams but he is in regular contact with leader David Ellesmere. Details of decisions that he has made are being put on the borough’s website.

One decision he has taken is to spend £150,000 to buy hotel accommodation for rough sleepers over the next 12 weeks in a bid to ensure that everyone can have a roof over their head during the current crisis.

And there’s a new Hardship Fund from the government to support those households already in receipt council tax Support.

This means bills for these households will be reduced by up to £150 – which will ensure that the most financially vulnerable households have nothing to pay. These awards will be applied automatically if households are already in receipt of this support. Ipswich council is writing to the nearly 7,000 households affected – letters have started to go out this week.

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Mr  Williams said: “More than 95% of our office-based staff are now working from home but many of our frontline staff – for instance our refuse collectors – do not have the opportunity to do this. Our teams are doing a fantastic job out and about in town – our bin crews, our HEARS staff, our parks employees and our sheltered housing workers among them.

“We have now trained over 100 employees so that they are available to be redeployed into roles that are deemed more critical at these challenging times. I am really, really proud of all their dedication and commitment.

“But, I am appalled when I hear from colleagues elsewhere in the UK, that some council staff carrying out their jobs in really challenging circumstances are being verbally – even physically – abused. I am though encouraged that the vast majority of Ipswich residents appreciate what we are doing for them and for businesses.”


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