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Business support update from Rother District Council

By Carol Harris Battle Town Council

Monday, 23 March 2020


Battle Town Council Contributor


Business support

Several schemes have been announced to support businesses at this difficult time. Information is still coming through from Government but attached to this update you will find a summary of what we know so far.
This includes information on;

  • Business support grants fund
  • Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund
  • Business rate relief

Further information on support for East Sussex businesses, including the latest guidance from Government can be found on the South East Business Hub website.

Service disruption

Across all service areas we endeavour to deliver services as normal. Measures are in place to enable most staff to work at home and expect this process to be complete by end of next week. Undoubtedly, performance will deteriorate as services will not be as efficient as when operating from the office.

It is likely that there will be reduced availability of staff during the normal working day due to childcare responsibilities now that schools are closed. We are however being as flexible as possible regarding staff working patterns to ensure we are able to process as much work as possible.

Housing Benefits, Council Tax Reduction, Council Tax - Maintaining Service delivery
Our housing benefits team would normally call in external support through the resilience contract with Reigate and Bansted. Unfortunately, this is on hold at present given the current situation all councils are managing.

To help us prioritise and complete work throughout this difficult time our preferred method of contact is via e-mail, although we can deal with phone calls by calling customers back. Customers should be encouraged to contact us via the website or by email to revenuesandbenefits@rother.gov.uk

Managing disruption to waste collections
Officers have been working hard to ensure the business continuity plans are in place to keep our essential waste services operating throughout the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The day to day availability of trained staff will determine which waste services Biffa are able to continue to provide.

Two levels of escalation have been agreed with Biffa, our aim is to prioritise resources, so we continue to provide clinical waste collections, household refuse collections and to empty town centre litter bins.

In the event of 20% of Biffa staff being absent the following services would be suspended due to staff absence:

  • Fly Posting
  • Fly Tip removal (non urgent)
  • Bulky Waste Collections
  • Garden Waste Collections

If staff absence continues to increase, the joint waste partnership would then look to suspend other services such as; Street Cleansing (except town centres), Litter Bin Emptying (except town centres), Fly Tip removal (urgent incidents will still be prioritised), Recycling Collection Service, Recycling Bring-Sites, Beach Cleansing.

There will be regular updates on service disruption posted to the Coronavirus latest page on the Rother website.

Hardship Fund
The Government announced a £500 million Hardship Fund to support individuals in financial difficulty. They have said that most of this funding will be used to provide more Council Tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Reduction schemes, or through similar measures. We are awaiting guidance from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) on how this will be implemented, including allocations to individual Councils.

It will be important to understand if and how the fund goes beyond simply reducing a household’s council tax liability. Until such time as the guidance is issued, there remains the Council’s existing hardship fund which can be accessed for households in crisis. It does not however go beyond relief from Council Tax. Details on help paying council tax can be found on our website.

Housing and homelessness
Due to the changes in how we are working at this time we have published some new advice for homeless applicants on our website. We will continue to do our best to support anyone who believes they are at risk of homelessness but would encourage applicants to contact us by phone or email in the first instance.

Applicants can contact us by email to housing@rother.gov.uk or by calling 01424 787000

Understandably at this time we will avoid completing home visits unless absolutely necessary.

Under advice for homeless applicants there is also updated information available for clients in temporary accommodation and rough sleepers.

Strategy and Planning Service
Over the coming weeks we expect that current restrictions due to the Coronavirus outbreak to impact on the work of the strategy and planning service.

There may be limited availability for officers to attend meetings and undertake some site visits (planning applications, policy matters and enforcement cases) depending on the level of risk - albeit the posting of site notices should not be affected. There may also be delays in replying to emails, letters, processing planning applications, impact on policy work including support for Neighbourhood Plans, delayed enforcement investigations (we are currently not accepting any new enforcement complaints), and delays in our Land Charges service.

We will endeavour to maintain a normal service level throughout this crisis keeping communications open to members and town and parish councils.

Leisure centres

Where many establishments, including Bexhill Museum and the De La Warr Pavilion, have closed following the Government guidance for organisations arranging mass gatherings, the leisure centres currently remain open.

These unprecedented circumstances are proving difficult for businesses and while there are packages of support from the Government the future remains uncertain. We are in regular communication with the leisure operator and with them will continue to review their ability to remain open.

Please be assured they are putting stringent infection control measures in place to ensure public and employee protection.

Your help in advising your communities about the impacts on service delivery during this time will also be welcomed.

Contact Information

Carol Harris

Find Battle Town Council

The Almonry, High Street, Battle, East Sussex, TN33 0EA