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How Coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting our services

How Coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting our services

We will keep this page updated with information about council services that may be affected by COVID-19.

Following the latest government advice on social distancing, we are taking the sensible precaution to protect the public by reducing some non-essential council services.

This page is a work in progress. We will update it as soon as we get new information.

Last updated - 27 March, 315pm

As always, we are here to protect and support our vulnerable adults and have been in contact with nearly 2,000 residents over the last 2 weeks.

We are helping to support the NHS, working to move our vulnerable adults from hospital into appropriate care facilities quicker to reduce the risk of them picking up the virus while freeing up NHS hospitals staff and facilities.

During the COV-19 pandemic we have been:

  • Keeping our critical social care functions running
  • Proactively contacting and checking on the welfare of residents known to us
  • We have contacted almost 1,800 residents in the last two weeks
  • We also have 200 especially vulnerable residents and they are being checked on frequently to ensure they’re safe
  • Gearing ourselves up to deliver the emergency guidance on hospital discharge which is as quick as possible every day of the week
  • Helping free up the NHS staff and facilities to tackle COVID-19 and reduce the risk of vulnerable people picking up the virus
  • Increasing the number of spaces we have available in care and support areas to help us with increased hospital discharge
  • Supporting a voluntary sector response across the borough for the elderly and vulnerable
  • Setting up a helpline for residents in need of our support and signed up 500 volunteers which will distribute essential supplies to all our vulnerable people as we understand need.

 

For further information on the help available to our most vulnerable please visit our community support page

Public council meetings have been postponed unless/until a suitable alternative arrangement can be put in place for them. The Government have announced that all elections scheduled for 7 May 2020 will be postponed for 12 months.


We don't have any further information at the moment but will keep you updated when we do.

Following government advice to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), we have closed the Shute End civic offices to the public, but will continue to run essential frontline services. You can use the contact us page to find out how to get in touch.

If you need to contact us please use our online forms or email us in the first instance. It is vital that we keep our phone line (0118 974 6000) free for those who really need it.

Register Office

While the Civic Offices are closed to the public, appointments for registering deaths will continue by appointment only. 

Birth registration and declaration appointments are now deferred until we are through the current pandemic period. Customers can now make a claim for child benefit or universal credit prior to the birth being registered, where they have not been able to do so because of these measures.

The copy certificate printing service is still continuing. Express (next day) replacement certificate service has stopped, but standard 14 day service is still available.

Weddings and civil partnerships at the Register Office are suspended until further notice. We are getting in touch with all current bookings to arrange for alternative dates or to put them on hold until the situation improves. 

Appointment for notice of marriage or civil partnerships have also stopped until further notice.

Citizenship ceremonies are also cancelled until further notice. The current three month time limit on attending a ceremony has just been extended to six months.  

EUSS appointments are cancelled but applicants can get help on the Gov UK website page 

Post

Post can still be sent or delivered to Shute End but please note there will be a delay in dealing with postal correspondence. If you need to send us any documents or information, please do this by using our online forms or via email. This will allow us to continue to provide a service without reliance on the post.

Payments

You can make online payments on our website. We are unable to accept cash or cheques at this time.

We appreciate your patience as we deal with enquiries at this busy time. We will prioritise those in most urgent need of our help, and we will respond to everyone as soon as is possible.

                                                                    

Council tax

We know this is an extremely difficult time for people and are seeking to provide relief and support wherever necessary.

The Government has confirmed a £500 million hardship fund will provide Council Tax relief for vulnerable people and households to help those affected most by coronavirus.

Working age residents supported through our Council Tax Reduction Scheme will receive up to an additional £150 reduction to their bill. These changes will be automatically applied – you do not need to do anything further.

If you are finding it difficult to meet your instalments please contact us at ctax@wokingham.gov.uk so we can work with you on a more manageable repayment plan.
 

Housing, revenue and benefits front desk

The Housing, Revenue and Benefits counter service at our Shute End offices is closed until further notice. 

Residents needing to get in touch can phone 0118 974 6000 or use our contact us form online. If you can use our online services, please do to keep the phone lines open for those most in need.

Planning applications

We are continuing to determine planning applications that were already in the system. For recent planning applications, if we can undertake a site visit while complying with social distancing guidelines, we will continue to do so. 

However, where social distancing is not possible, applications may be delayed. Given that the Council needs to focus its resources on helping vulnerable people it would be helpful if applicants could delay submission of planning applications during this period.

The planning committee meeting scheduled for 8 April will need to be postponed or alternative arrangements found. We will update this page when we know more.

Local Plan

We are continuing to progress the Local Plan Update (LPU).

The current draft local plan consultation has recently been extended and will close at 5pm Friday 3 April 2020. Any consultation responses sent by post during this time will be still be considered, however there will be a delay in processing while staff are working remotely.

All enquiries at this time should be made by email to LPU@wokingham.gov.uk. You can take a look at more information on the Local Plan Update.

In line with government guidelines, all our libraries, swimming pools and leisure centres are now closed until further notice. For more information  on leisure centres visit Places Leisure website.

Libraries

To access e-Books, e-Audio and e-Comics, login to the RB Digital service website. Use your library card number to create a free account with a username and password. For more information visit the library page.

Books can be renewed online but overdue fines have been suspended at this time.

We are developing digital and virtual library services and working with Public Health on safe ways to continue home deliveries.

Take a look at the Frequently Asked Questions for the most up to date information on the borough libraries. 

Country Parks

We have closed all our country park car parks. This is in line with updated Givernment advice we have received that people should not be driving to their daily exercise and this includes driving near to country parks and parking on residential roads. The restrictions will be enforceable by the police. Our country parks, including Dinton Pastures and California Country Park, are still open (except for the play areas, cafes, the activity centre at Dinton and for fishing at all sites) however this can only be maintained if visitors are keeping their social distance and adhering to the rules on social distancing. If a park becomes too busy, or people are not respecting these rules, it will sadly be necessary to close it.

There are plenty of green spaces in the borough – please visit our webpage here for some other options.

We are urging visitors to work with us to keep these parks open.

Dinton Activity Centre

Following the prime minister's announcement we have now closed Dinton Activity Centre, ceased fishing on all of our sites and postponed access to Berkshire Disc Golf Club.

If you are a member of either leisure facility or have booked onto one of the activities/events run by Dinton Activity Centre you will be contacted by our team.

Play areas

In order to support social distancing to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we have decided to close all of our play areas from 23 March.

Over the coming days (following the announcement on 23 March) each of the borough council’s 99 play areas will have signage installed informing residents that the play area is closed and reminding people to follow social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and keep them and their families safe.  Those play areas that are able to will also be locked.

Many of the town and parish council’s within the borough also operate play areas.  We are asking them to close these as well and offering to install signage for them.

Public Rights of Way

The restrictions announced by the government now apply to Public Rights of Way along with the countryside access network. 

We request that you adhere to the below rules:

  • Please only use your local Public Rights of Way network for lawful access which is to exercise once a day and for routes to food shops or when essential travel to and from work is required.
  • Please ensure that you keep the 2 metres (6 feet) distance between your household group and other individuals you come across.
  • Please do not arrange to meet other families or form groups larger than two when out exercising, walking or riding.
  • Please ensure that you take tissues or any other health products that you use home with you.
  • Where paths use canal towpaths and river banks please respect residents who have limited space and may be in self-isolation due to illness and other vulnerabilities. Please do consider using other routes.
  • Although at present there is no evidence of human-animal transference of Coronavirus (Covid-19), it is essential that you limit contact with other families’ animals as well as farm livestock as part of social distancing.

In relation to inspections of public rights of way, due to present restrictions on movement, we are giving a priority only to matters on the public rights of way network which present a safety hazard for the public. In some cases, work will be done which is deemed to be reducing the risk of a potential hazard.

Site inspections by staff will only take place where necessary to ascertain the priority of the request.  It would assist if all requests from the public were accompanied by as much information as possible.

For more information on public rights of way, visit our webpage.

Sports and health activities

The SHINE programme, run by our sports team to provide activities for those 60 and older, will therefore not be running until further notice. For more information visit the SHINE website page.        

Tennis courts will remain open at Cantley Park. In line with Public Health England advice, appropriate hygiene measures, including social distancing, will be in place to reduce/stop any spread and therefore only every other court will be in use. We would ask those who fall into the vulnerable categories to continue to self-isolate and avoid using these facilities.

All Ramblers Walking for Health Walks, supported by the council’s Sports team, are suspended - See the Ramblers.org.uk website. This includes group walks, social activities and other meetings.  All these activities have stopped until further notice or at least until the 31 May, subject to further developments.

All Wokingham Borough Council football pitches, both grass and 3G, are closed until further notice..

Wokingham Active Kids, our school holiday camp, will not longer be running over the Easter holidays. Our sports and leisure team will be in contact directly with those who have booked a place. 

School closures

All schools are closed until further notice, except for children of key workers and the most vulnerable

Further information about schools and other educational settings can be found of the UK Government website, including details about: 

  • GCSE and A Level exam cancellations
  • Free school meals


Primary and infant to junior school placements will be delayed. When we have further information, we will update this page.


Children's centres

Our children’s centres are no longer open to the public, but some of our key health services are continuing. Our one to one targeted early help support continues to be delivered virtually. All our services are under constantly under review in this fast changing situation. We will update this page when we have further information.

Public Transport

The reduced timetables will mean fewer journeys available to our residents on most service compared to a normal week day service.

Operators will continue to monitor the situation. Further short notice changes may be made services to reflect demand, available resources and operational costs.More information will be available directly from operators on their services, including: 


Civil parking enforcement

This is a difficult time for all of us and, in order to help those who really need it, we are relaxing our car parking enforcement across the borough.

We are calling on people to park responsibly and also to continue paying in our car parks if they are able – this is because the Council needs to ensure that we continue to maximise revenue coming into the Council to help us support those vulnerable residents in our community during the Covid-19 emergency. This is costing millions of pounds and every penny we can raise will make a difference.

We will not be enforcing restrictions in our car parks and will be relaxing enforcement elsewhere, with the exception of:

  • Blue Badge disabled parking bays
  • Residents’ parking schemes
  • Any dangerous or obstructive parking
  • Double yellow lines

These will be enforced as normal.

Also, we have reminded all civil parking officers that they should not be enforcing against health workers, social care workers and NHS volunteers who are displaying ID in their vehicles.

We are making this change because it is the compassionate thing to do and to protect those in difficult circumstances, such as those collecting medicines or vital supplies who get caught in long queues. But we urge those able to adhere to the normal rules, to be responsible and consider their impact on our ability to deliver vital services. 

Waste and recycling collections

All our services are currently operating as normal, but the recycling centres in Bracknell (Longshot Lane) and Reading (Smallmead) are closed until further notice. We are assessing our collection service on a daily basis and will reconsider our decisions depending on the availability of our collection staff.

Our priority is keeping our services running. If you have put in a request with us, please be patient. We are doing the best we can with high demand and following government guidelines to work from home, so requests will take longer than usual.

If you need to contact us, please do so online if at all possible, leaving our phone lines open for those who most need us.

Where to get blue bags, food waste bags and garden waste sacks

Advice on blue bags:

  • If you run out of blue bags, please see if you can borrow some from a neighbour.    
  • If you run out and cannot borrow from a neighbour, contact us and we will try to schedule a delivery. 
  • Recycle as much as possible to conserve your supply of blue bags. 
  • For properties missed in the round of deliveries that received vouchers for bags to collect will have bags delivered instead within the next couple of weeks.


Advice on missed collections:

  • If we miss a collection and you can hold onto it until the following week, please do as this will help us keep the service up and running.
  • If that is not possible, we will try to arrange to come back, but please bear with us as it will take longer than normal.


Advice on recycling:

  • Continue to use your recycling boxes even if they are cracked. 
  • We will not be able to replace bins currently as our priority is to keep the service running.


Advice on food waste: 

  • Availability of food waste bags is temporarily suspended. 
  • Once you run out of food waste bags, please leave unlined or use any plastic bags you have, newspaper or kitchen paper to line the caddy. 
  • If you need a food waste caddy, we are able to deliver the outdoor caddies only at this time. You would need to use an alternative counter top indoor caddy for now.


Advice on garden waste: 

  • First, see if you can share a neighbour’s garden waste bin. 
  • Alternatively, you can opt into the wheeled bin service or order garden waste sacks by phoning us and paying over the phone. Please understand that delivery will take longer than it normally would. 


Clothing banks

Our clothing and textiles recycling banks are now closed. Residents will need to keep their clothing/textile recycling until our collections resume.

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