Statement from the Leader of Rochford District Council, Cllr Mike Steptoe and Managing Director, Shaun Scrutton

Date: 
Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Updates from Rochford District Council

 

Customer services

Following the Prime Minister's announcement on Monday 23rd March and to enable the safety of staff and the public, all customer services officers are now working from home. Residents can still contact the council through our website at www.rochford.gov.uk using the live chat facility or by email at customerservices@rochford.gov.uk

If anyone needs to contact us by phone and knows the officer’s direct dial number, please use that.

From tomorrow, 26 March 2020 you can contact us on the following telephone numbers:

For Housing Benefits and Council tax call 01702 318195, 01702 318028 or 01702 318038

For all other enquiries dial 01702 318034 or 01702 318036

Our opening hours are 08:30 until 17:00 Monday - Friday however the live web chat has been extended outside of these hours as much as possible.

 

Planning

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, the Council’s Planning team are diligently working to maintain the service by working from home. However, because of the remote working some inevitable changes to our usual practices are needed.  With immediate effect the notification of planning applications, by letter, will be replaced with the erection of a yellow site notice on or near land to which the application relates, for not less than 21 days. This change in our working practice still meets the regulations for publicity for applications for planning permission, set out in Article 15 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015. We apologise for any inconvenience. 

To view planning application documents please access via

https://maps.rochford.gov.uk/DevelopmentControl.aspx?RequestType=ParseTemplate&template=DevelopmentControlSearch.tmplt

 

Council Tax Hardship Fund

The Government announced in the Budget on 11 March that it would provide local authorities in England with £500m of new grant funding to support economically vulnerable people and households in their local area. The guidance has now been published and the Council will be working to allocate the funds and issue new bills as quickly as possible. The funding will enable councils to provide a reduction of at least £150 to recipients who are of working age and are already eligible for council tax support.

The guidance is available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/council-tax-covid-19-hardship-fund-2020-to-2021-guidance

The press release is also available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-confirms-500-million-hardship-fund-will-provide-council-tax-relief-for-vulnerable-households

 

Grants for Businesses

The Government has now published guidance to support local authorities in administering the small business support grant and will provide funding to local authorities for the scheme at the beginning of April. The council will start to contact relevant businesses shortly.

The Government guidance can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-business-support-grant-funding

The council’s latest guidance is available on our website.

“If your business is eligible for small business rate relief or rural rate relief in England, you are entitled to a one-off cash grant of £10,000. If your business is in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector in England, then you may also be entitled to a cash grant. If you have a property with a rateable value of less than £15,000 then you will be entitled to a grant of £10,000, whether or not you are entitled to small business rate relief or rural rate relief. If you have a property with a rateable value of between £14,999 and £51,000 then you will be entitled to a cash grant of £25,000. If you are an eligible business, the Council will be in touch in the coming weeks to provide details of how to claim this money.”

 

Business Rate Reliefs – April Direct Debit payments

 

Retail Relief

The Council is currently working to apply the Expanded Retail Discount to qualifying Business Rates accounts and our latest guidance is detailed below.

“If your recently received 2020/21 annual bill already shows a Retail Discount of 50% you do not need to do anything, an amended bill will be issued shortly showing that a 100% discount has now been applied to your account. We will not collect an April Direct Debit.

If your recently received 2020/21 annual bill does not show a Retail Discount of 50%, we are working to identify if you are a qualifying property. In some cases we will not be able to do this without contacting you first and so you may receive a telephone call from us in the next few weeks so we can establish your type of business. If we are unable to establish your type of business in time your Direct Debit will be paused until May.

For properties that clearly do not qualify for the Expanded Retail Discount, the April Direct Debit will be taken as normal.

The qualifying criteria can be found under the Covid 19 Business Rates pages on the Council’s website”

 

Private nurseries 

The Education Secretary announced on Wednesday 18th March that private nurseries would also pay no rates in 2020/21.

The Council is currently working to apply this relief to qualifying Business Rates accounts. Businesses do not have to do anything; an amended bill will follow shortly.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-confirms-500-million-hardship-fund-will-provide-council-tax-relief-for-vulnerable-households

 

Updates from Government

Business

Information about support available to businesses continues to be issued by Government https://www.rochford.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19-latest-information-and-advice/latest-information-businesses

Residents are urged to check our website or sign up for direct emails from our Economic Development team via Tell Me More www.rochford.gov.uk/TellMeMore (select “business”).

This document provides guidance on the closure of all retailers that sell non-essential goods and other non-essential premises, as part of further social distancing measures.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close

It has been updated to deal with work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, which can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms and that social distancing requirements are complied with. No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households. No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

Businesses will be given an additional 3 months to file accounts with Companies House to help companies avoid penalties as they deal with the impact of COVID-19.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/companies-to-receive-3-month-extension-period-to-file-accounts-during-covid-19

 

NHS advice

Everyone is reminded to follow the NHS advice which includes preventative measures about social distancing and stay at home guidance. Please also remember to keep your hands clean, especially if you have been outside e.g. at the supermarket or using an ATM.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance

Please use our website!

Don’t forget a lot of useful content is available via our website and this will be updated regularly, so www.rochford.gov.uk is the best place to check first and we have a dedicated section at www.rochford.gov.uk/coronavirus. Our other media channels are also good sources of information - www.rochford.gov.uk/tellmemore, Facebook:  Rochford District Council, Instagram @RochfordDC and Twitter @RochfordDC

We would like to reassure everyone that we are working closely with our partners from across Essex in the NHS, emergency services, county council and other local authorities, ensuring that well-practiced plans are put into place.

 

Daily updates

The council is monitoring Government guidance daily and will be issuing communications to staff, members and the public with increasing regularity, so please watch our website, sign up for e-mail alerts or go to our social media channels to keep up-to-date with the latest information.