More than 200 Ipswich council staff furloughed to save about £100,000

Shoppers in Ipswich town centre Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Shoppers in Ipswich town centre Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Ipswich council has furloughed more than 200 staff in a bid to save more than £100,000 in the next three weeks as it works through lockdown.

Most of the staff who have been given time off work part-time for the council in leisure and sports centres, at the Ipswich Corn Exchange or at the Regent Theatre - which have all had to close since the lockdown was introduced at the end of March.

Because most are part-time, the full-time equivalent workforce is 80 – ranging from bar staff to part-time staff at sports centres.

The council has already redeployed more than 110 staff into key services that are leading the response to coronavirus. Chief executive Russell Williams said it needed to take this additional action to improve the council’s financial position in the face of unprecedented costs in tackling the virus – and unprecedented losses of income across many services.

None of the employees affected will lose out financially. While the government’s furlough scheme pays 80% of workers’ wages, the council is making up the remaining 20%.

Some staff at Ipswich Museum had already been furloughed because they work for the Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service, which is administered by Colchester – that council introduced a furlough scheme earlier this week.

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Ipswich council has moved many members of staff to departments which are directly helping vulnerable people who have been told to self-isolate at home during the lockdown.

The furlough scheme was introduced by chancellor Rishi Sunak when the lockdown was brought in at the end of March – and is due to continue until June at the latest.

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Mr Williams said: “Ipswich Borough Council, like everyone in the country, is awaiting the Prime Minister’s proposed statement on Sunday. He is expected to announce measures to ease the current lockdown but like everyone else we do not know what these measures will be or when they will come into force.

“Needless to say, the council will follow Government guidelines and adapt quickly to any changes. In the meantime – and moving forward – we must continue to concentrate on providing support for vulnerable residents and delivering other key services such as waste collection. Next week we will restart collecting garden waste in brown bins.

“We face an unparalleled crisis and even if we are past the peak – as health experts believe – the effects of the Coronavirus will continue to affect all of us for a long long time to come.

“Certainly the council is facing severe financial pressures as we deliver additional key services without the usual levels of income from services such as the Regent Theatre, sports facilities and car parks.

“This is why I have taken the decision to furlough more than 200 full and part-time staff under the Government’s Job Retention Scheme. This is a temporary measure but it should save us around £100,000 over the next three weeks.”

Colchester was the first council in the region to introduce a furlough scheme earlier this week, and Ipswich has now followed.

It was made clear that everyone who has been furloughed has agreed to the move – and that no-one would lose financially from the move. Officials from the council spent much of Thursday contacting staff and explaining how the scheme would work.

Earlier this week, Mr Sunak said the full furlough scheme was unlikely to be extended beyond June because its cost was so high – but he pledged there would be no “cliff edge” at the end because some people would need further help.

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