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How Covid-19 is affecting our services

How Covid-19 is affecting our services

During the easing of lockdown, and while cases are high and rising, some of our services will still be impacted. Please bear with us during this time. We will keep this page updated with information about council services that may be affected by Covid-19.

Please note, we feel it is important to maintain all social distancing measures in public council buildings beyond Monday 19 July.

These venues include our Shute End Civic Offices (which will remain open Monday to Friday, 9am to 2.30pm), libraries, the Dragonfly Café at Dinton Pastures Country Park, and others.

We respectfully ask all visitors to stick to the guidance so we can continue to keep everyone safe. This will include:

  • Wearing a face covering whilst inside these buildings, in line with Government advisory guidance
  • Following one-way systems and keeping your distance from staff members and other visitors
  • Practising good hand hygiene by using hand sanitiser stations provided

This page is a work in progress. We will update it as soon as we get new information. If you cannot find what you’re looking for, use our dedicated Covid-19 query form to get in touch.

Last updated - 23 August

As always, we are here to protect and support our vulnerable adults.

We are in regular contact with all our care providers (about 150) to offer support and guidance. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic we have:

  • Kept our critical social care functions running
  • Contacted all residents known to our adult social care teams, with many receiving regular welfare calls
  • Contacted hundreds of carers to ensure that they can plan in an emergency
  • Contacted 3,900 vulnerable residents, with those who require ongoing support receiving fortnightly calls from the charity The Link to ensure they are safe
  • Ensured hospital discharges happened as quickly as possible every day of the week
  • Ran a taskforce to plan and risk assess safe discharges for every person coming out of hospital to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the community
  • Helped free up the NHS staff and facilities to tackle Covid-19 and reduce the risk of vulnerable people picking up the virus
  • Increased the number of spaces we have available with care and support providers to help us with increased hospital discharge
  • Supported and worked closely with the voluntary sector to provide a response across the borough for elderly and vulnerable people
  • Provided a helpline for residents in need of our support and signed up 600 volunteers, it will help to 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

The majority of our public meetings will take place using digital technology. If you would like to listen in please contact democratic.services@wokingham.gov.uk for details.

Shute End customer service is open at reduced capacity for waste receptacle collection, the contactless payment kiosk and support for customers who are unable to use our digital services (9am to 2.30pm, Monday to Friday).

We are continuing 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

During the current pandemic all deaths should be registered over the telephone. Fill in our online form (button below) with the necessary details for us to contact you by telephone to register the death:

 Pre-register a death

 
 
Birth registration and birth declaration appointments (Wokingham residents whose baby was born outside of the Borough, for example Royal Berkshire Hospital) are continuing.

Phone 0118 974 6000 (select option 3 and then 3 again) to book or you can book online for either of these appointments.

Please do not book or attend an appointment if you are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms.

The copy certificate printing service is continuing. Express (next day) replacement certificate service and the standard 14 day service are still available.

Appointments for notice of marriage or civil partnerships for ceremonies in the next couple of months are also continuing. These can be booked by calling 0118 974 6000. Appointments cost £35 for each person. However, if your notice is no longer valid because of Covid-19, you can request a free notice appointment.

Weddings and civil partnerships can now go ahead, our registry office has capacity for 26 people.

Citizenship ceremonies are being held. If you have received your letter from the Home Office, please call us and we will invite you to a ceremony.

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

Cemeteries

All cemeteries in Wokingham are currently open for family members to visit graves and memorials.  

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.

Beware of scams

Be vigilant against coronavirus scams – staff working for the council do not visit people at home and ask for council tax and/or housing rent to be paid by cash.
    

If anyone visits you at home and asks for your council tax and/or rent to be paid in cash, then this is a scam.

Staff working for the housing rent team are visiting residents at home. Staff working for the council tax team are not currently completing home visits.

For further government advice about scams, visit its  web pages. If you have any concerns please contact us on 0118 974 6000.

Council Tax

Staff will be working from home to prevent the illness spreading. This means that we will try to email you where possible, or there may be a delay when we post letters to you. We will work hard to make sure that documents you post to us are scanned on to our system as quickly as possible to minimise delays.

We will still accept calls on 0118 974 6000, but there is likely to be some interruptions to the service.

You can also email us at: ctax@wokingham.gov.uk     

We appreciate that this is a difficult time. If you are finding it hard to meet your instalments, please email us on ctax@wokingham.gov.uk so we can work with you on a more manageable repayment plan. 

Financial support while self-isolating

If you will struggle financially while self-isolating, you may be entitled to claim a Test and Trace Support Payments. Please visit our Test and Trace Support Payments webpage for information on whether you are eligible to claim.

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.

Housing

Some of our housing services have changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Please see guidance below for the different areas.

Repairs - housing

Please continue to report all repairs as follows:    

  • To report a repair, please call 0800 515 287
  • To report any heating or gas servicing issue, please call 0800 389 8789      
        

We are currently only undertaking repairs that are assessed as essential. These will include health and safety and urgent repairs. You will be notified if a repair is assessed as essential at the point that you report it.  

If the repair is assessed as essential, you will be asked a standard series of questions concerning the health and vulnerabilities of yourself and any family you have living with you.

Gas servicing - housing

Gas servicing will continue as usual. Robert Heath Heating will contact tenants when their annual gas service is due. This is a legal requirement and must be completed.  

  • Engineers will use the correct personal protective equipment when completing the service however we ask that residents move to an unoccupied room during the service
  • If you have any question regarding the gas service then please call Robert Heath Heating directly on 0800 389 8789        
     

Paying your rent for council owned homes

If you're in a situation where you're worried about paying your rent, please get in touch with us immediately. We understand this is a difficult time, and we are here to help. Our rental income team can talk through your rent account and payment options.

We are providing a Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, telephone only service with our contact details shown below. Please check the top left of the letter about your rent changes sent in late February 2021 to see who your rent officer is.

Please contact rent officers Ade Okeowo (07595 057512) or Beverley Patrice-Farrell (07885 983791). All other enquiries can be made by calling 0118 974 6238, then selecting option 4 and option 4 a second time. Alternatively, you can email rents@wokingham.gov.uk – we read emails every working day.

The team are continuing to encourage and support residents of working age to apply for Housing Costs to be paid through a Universal Credit application, and residents of pensionable age to apply for Housing Benefit. This includes providing residents with advice and support in managing their online Universal Credit account called their ‘journal’.

Paying your rent for residents living in the private rented sector 

From 1 August 2021, the notice period for cases where there are less than 4 months of unpaid rent, will further reduce to 2 months’ notice. The notice period for ‘serious arrears’ is 4 weeks’ notice and the threshold for what constitutes ‘serious arrears’ is ‘arrears equivalent to 4 or more months’ rent.

If you cannot afford to pay your rent, contact your landlord in the first instance. You can seek independent help and advice through Citizens Advice Wokingham.. 

You can alsoemail housing.needs@wokingham.gov.uk or call 0118 974 6000 during office hours, or 0800 212 111 outside of office hours in an emergency.

Sheltered tenants - housing

Our Floating support service team are maintaining the services we provide to residents within our sheltered services.

Daily phone calls or visits are continuing to take place for those who are most vulnerable within our schemes. Those that are able should continue to use the ‘I’m OK’ feature, which has been very successful and provides residents with support and peace of mind.  We are looking to maintain this in the future.

  

Your welfare and safeguarding remain our first concern. Should you have any issue, please let us know. The Floating support services team are now retuning to all standard working across the schemes and will continue to wear PPE and maintain social distancing. We ask residents to do the same when in communal spaces. 

You can contact them by email on housing@wokingham.gov.uk or by phoning 0118 974 6000.

Planned visits - housing

Housing Officers are undertaking all the standard housing management visits and will continue to wear PPE and maintain social distancing. We ask you to please keep your distance we are visiting your home. 

You can contact them by email on housing@wokingham.gov.uk or by phoning 0118 974 6000. Ahead of any visit you will be asked if you have Covid-19 symptoms, or if you've been asked to self-isolate. If either of these are the case, we will re arrange our appointment with you later.

We will continue to undertake gas boiler servicing. As with repairs, prior to the gas engineer attending you will be asked a series of questions concerning the health and vulnerability of the homeowner. In addition, to conform with the social distancing requirements the engineer may ask you to go into another room or keep 2m away

We will keep our other planned programmes such as window and door replacements and external decorations under review. Currently we are planning to continue with this work.

The Rental Income Team are providing a Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, telephone service. 

Leaseholders and Shared Owners - housing

From 1 April 2020, the insurance for leaseholders of ‘Right to Buy’ Flats and Shared Ownership Properties changed to Avid Insurance Services.

  • If you need to make a claim please phone the claims administrator, Questgates Limited, on 01204 860427
  • The policy number is 2020CP000177

Planning applications

We are continuing to determine planning applications and it is business as usual for the planning service. Where officers are unable to carry out site visits due to social distancing requirements we are asking for photographs to be emailed to us.

Planning committee meeting are currently taking place virtually.

Planning permissions and appeals

New measures will permanently grant the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) the ability to use more than one procedure - written representations, hearing and inquiries - at the same time when dealing with a planning appeal, enabling appeals to happen much faster. 

Read the government announcement by the Housing Secretary for more information.

Local Plan

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

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.

Planning permission - pubs and restaurants operating as takeaways

Planning rules have been relaxed so pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Currently, planning permission is required for businesses to carry out a change of use to a hot food takeaway. The government has confirmed regulations will be relaxed to enable businesses to deliver this service without a planning application.

For more information visit the UK Government website

Temporary structures and buildings

Throughout the pandemic, many businesses and organisations have needed more physical space to accommodate social distancing and safer operations. 

It is understood that the erection of temporary structures or buildings may provide a solution to this issue. Therefore we are working with local businesses to allow temporary structures or buildings without planning permission, in certain circumstances, until the end of December 2021.

For more information, please read our full Planning Advice Relating to Temporary Structures and Buildings (PDF document).

As part of the government's roadmap out of lockdown, swimming pools and leisure centres were able to reopen on Monday 12 April. For more information on leisure centres, please visit Places Leisure website.

Libraries

All borough libraries re-opened on Monday 19 July, in line with the easing of restrictions.

Country Parks

All facilities have re-opened at Dinton Pastures and California Country Park. Car parks at smaller Countryside Service parks are also open.

There are plenty of green spaces in the borough beyond the country parks – visit our countryside services website page for some other options. We are urging visitors to work with us to keep these parks open.

Sports and health activities

Outdoor sport and leisure facilities have re-opened. Across the borough, this includes grass pitches, 3G pitches, the tennis courts at Cantley Park and Woosehill, and archery at Cantley Park. It also includes skate parks and MUGAs.

Organised outdoor sport for adults and children is also now permitted. Sports must follow national governing body guidelines. Please contact sport@wokingham.gov.uk to find out more.

The SHINE programme, run by our sports team to provide activities for those 60 and older, is back up and running. For more information visit the SHINE website page.     

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.  

Public toilets

Public toilets are currently open. 

Schools

Schools in Wokingham Borough have re-opened to all pupils. For more information visit our Covid-19 schools webpage.   

Children's centres

Children’s Centres are offering Health Services to families, and face to face targeted work continues to take place with families where needed.

Since 17 May, Children’s Centres have been delivering targeted groups, which are by Family Worker invitation.

Our arrangements will continue to be reviewed and changes made, in line with Government guidance.

Explaining Covid-19 to children

We have collated expert advice for parents and carers to help explain Covid-19 to children and young people. You can get more information on the advice webpage.

There is also a dedicated webpage for parents and carers of children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND). The webpage covers the latest Government advice, resources for learning and advice for coping during these unprecedented times.

Public transport

Information will be available directly from operators on their services, including:

Civil parking enforcement

Civil parking enforcement remains in place across the borough to keep roads safe and to restore income for services.

Car parking charges at our country parks and town centres ensure better access for all residents, by preventing valuable car parking spaces from being used all day.

Highway defects

Our highways contractor VolkerHighways continues to carry out essential safety defects to keep our network safe for keyworkers and others who are still driving on our roads.

They will adhere with the latest advice from Public Health England and the Government when working on site.

They will follow the latest industry advice from the Construction Leadership Council, including working with required social distancing, as well as following guidance on site access, handwashing, cleaning and avoiding close working.

For more information on the site operating procedures which will be being followed and have been supported by Government, visit the Construction Leadership Council website

All our services are currently operating as normal. 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.

 

Recycling centres reopen with new safety measures

Residents are able to visit our recycling centres at Longshot Lane, Bracknell, or Smallmead, Reading. These will then be open every day between 8am and 6pm.

  • It is only a limited opening – if waste can be stored safety at home it should be  
  • You must book – and will not be allowed access without booking   
  • Social distancing rules will be in place and must be followed    
      

You won’t be allowed in unless you have booked a slot online.

Read more about the new temporary booking system on the re3 waste and recycling centres website.

Booking slots     

You can book a slot at one of our recycling centres on the re3 website. 

Due to high demand, please only make one booking a week.

Make sure your email address is typed correctly as this is how you will receive your booking confirmation. (If you can't see your email confirmation, check your junk folder.) You should also get a reminder 24 hours before your visit.  

Using the recycling centres

  • Don’t visit the centres if you have Covid-19 symptoms   
  • Do not visit without making a booking. Access will be denied if your vehicle isn’t on our list
  • Whilst we recommend that you bring a copy of your booking confirmation with you, you do not need to print the confirmation email to access the site. Your vehicle registration plate will be checked against our data
  • Follow staff advice at all times            
      

Follow these safety measures when visiting

  • Maintain a safe distance between yourself and other users
  • Visitors are encouraged to continue wearing face coverings
  • A limited number of vehicles will be allowed on site at any one time
  • Limited interaction - staff are unable to assist you in unloading your waste
  • Contact free visits – please display your proof of address through closed windows and use contactless payments
  • Wash your hands before and after your visit – there are no hand washing facilities at the centres
  • Double bag contaminated waste
  • Sort your waste before leaving home to make your trip more efficient
           

More information about the new rules at site are available on the re3 website.

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

Buy new / more blue bin bags

If you have run out of your annual allocation of blue bin bags you can buy more more at £4.38 for a roll of 10 from various locations - see below. You can only buy 1 roll at a time.

Where to collect / buy blue bin bags

Visit the blue bag webpages for the latest updates.

Where to get food waste bags

Visit the food waste webpages for the latest updates.

Where to buy brown sacks

Visit the garden waste webpages for the latest updates.

Bonfires

We urge residents to not light bonfires. Covid-19 can cause serious breathing problems which could be made much worse if a sufferer is exposed to bonfire smoke. 

Compost garden waste where possible, and remember that you are not allowed to burn household waste at any time, so stack or bag up excess rubbish for disposal when the current emergency is over.

For further information and regulations on bonfires visit the UK Government website.

Fly tipping

We have seen a rise in fly tipping during the pandemic. Our Localities Environmental team are  continuing to investigate all reports received and are issuing Fixed Penalties when evidence has been found.

Fly tipping will be removed within 3 working days, however there may be a slight delay if the contractors have reduced capacity due to Covid sickness/self-isolation.

We have also installed several cameras at various hot spot locations throughout the borough in an attempt to catch perpetrators.

We welcome any information from members of the public who may have witnessed someone fly tipping and encourage people to report it via our contact us form.

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