20 March 2020
Preston City Council will introduce a number of adjustments to its services to support people and businesses in the city impacted by the COVID19 virus.
As well as working hard to ensure the continued running of essential services, a number of adjustments have been made to areas such as council tax, business rates, environmental health and community engagement to ensure everything possible is being done to offer a helping hand to those in need.
Councillor Matthew Brown, Leader of Preston City Council, said:
"The COVID19 outbreak is a significant and untested challenge for the city of Preston, but it is one that the community is meeting with great resilience and fortitude.
"We understand the impact the situation has had on families and the small independent businesses we're proud to have in Preston and are determined to do everything we can to help.
"As such we've adopted a sympathetic and flexible approach to council tax and rent to support businesses and families with the aim of ensuring we help those losing income as a result of something they have no control over.
"We've also partnered with schools and community groups to support new food hubs that will be launched soon to reach families in hardship throughout the city.
"Despite having to close Town Hall from public access, there is advice and support online as well as contact details to engage over the telephone. Our teams are working hard to meet the needs of our residents, share information and updates with the community wherever possible.
"Additionally, we're working alongside central government and businesses in the city to provide advice and support on business rates and rent relief. We strongly urge Government for greater clarity and structured relief to help our businesses weather this storm.
"And of course, we're working tirelessly to ensure our key services keep running in the weeks and months to come. We are all in this together and take our role extremely seriously. The situation is changing daily and we will continue to look at how to support people through this difficult period."
The council is working alongside Central Government to ensure those in financial difficulty due to the virus outbreak are supported.
Individual circumstances will be reviewed on a case by case basis with discretionary housing payments for rent and exceptional hardship payments for council tax available for those most in need.
Recovery agents and the debt recovery process will be generally suspended until further notice.
The Contact Centre and Advice Service teams will continue to operate as normal. However, members of the public will only be able to get in contact for advice and support via email or over the phone.
The council have also stepped in to support 14 new food hubs throughout the city which are being run by schools, charities and community groups.
These hubs provide families with food that has been donated from supermarkets and the community as well as access to advice and support.
The initial six week scheme has set out to provide over 5000 food parcels and 3000 meals to those in need supporting up to 900 families throughout the city every week.
As food businesses in the city look to adapt their model to reach customers, the Environmental Health team at the council are working with them to help them introduce food takeaway and delivery services.
This involves a number of additional considerations for businesses including temperature control and contact-free delivery to people's homes.
The council are working with businesses to provide advice and support to help them set up these services and encouraging any business interested in setting this up to get in touch.
The council is also working with businesses affected by a drop in trade due to COVID19 by offering additional support and flexibility.
Individual circumstances will be reviewed on a case by case basis with additional support on offer for businesses struggling to pay bills including delayed or alternative payment arrangements.
The council will continue to monitor and implement advice from central government and communicate this to affected businesses.