I don’t think it will be a great surprise if I confess that this third national lockdown is really testing many city residents, myself included.
It’s the start of a New Year which is normally the time for celebrating and looking ahead, but all our lives have been affected by the virus and many things we love doing remain on hold.
One of the many devastating aspects of the pandemic has been the affect on businesses and the uncertainty they face. I regularly speak with local business owners so I know how tough things have been and how hard they are working in difficult conditions.
As a council we are committed to helping businesses and I’m immensely proud that we have distributed over £35.5million in business grants and £41million in business rates relief since the start of the pandemic, with more to come during this latest lockdown.
Around 2,800 city businesses have benefited from the extra cash, which has been used for everything from paying the rent, to investing in PPE and future proofing their business for a Covid-19 world.
This week the PT spoke to Kai from PKai hair salons in Hampton and Westgate. He told the newspaper that his business wouldn’t have survived without this essential Government funding and that the application to the council was straight forward and quick to receive.
If you are a business that’s struggling financially due to Covid-19, please do get in touch with us and we can check if you meet the eligibility criteria set out by the Government.
You can find out more about the grants scheme on our website.
Parents – please home-school wherever possible
Schools have also been adversely affected by the pandemic and once again I doff my cap to everyone involved in local education for their continued sterling efforts.
We’ve always said that the best place for pupils to be is in the classroom, but as Covid-19 cases continue to rise we fully accept the government’s decision to close schools except to vulnerable pupils and children of critical workers.
In Peterborough, we know there is still some uncertainty among parents over whether their children can attend school and Jonathan Lewis, our director of education, has written to all parents to explain the current regulations in detail.
Our message to parents is: please carefully consider whether your child needs to be in school right now. We need the number of children and young people in school or college to be the lowest possible in order to reduce household mixing and the risk of spreading coronavirus.
Even if you are a critical worker, if your child can remain at home rather than attend school, on some or all days, then they should. Please only use the offer of education when it is crucial for you to undertake your critical role.
If you are unsure whether you are classified as a critical worker, visit the government website where the full list of critical workers is published.
If you are one of the many parents home-schooling your child at the moment and you’re struggling with access to Broadband or equipment, please be assured we are working with schools to gain an understanding of the issues you are reporting and how we may be able to help. I will be able to tell you more soon.
There is light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine rollout continuing at pace, but in the meantime please continue to follow the lockdown rules and take extra care.
As always you can rest assured we will continue to work to keep you safe and keep the city moving forwards.
Council looking to purchase flats to help rough sleepers
Regular readers will know that I’m extremely proud of the work the council has done to support those in need during the pandemic.
I would like to single out our housing team here – they have worked wonders to support rough sleepers across the city over the past ten months.
The team aims to offer rough sleepers the right level support and find them accommodation to help them stay off the streets for good.
On this note, the council is looking to buy a refurbished office building in Lincoln Road which has been converted into flats. The flats would be used as ‘next steps accommodation’ to house former rough sleepers who have remained committed to staying off the streets after spending time in hostels or rest centres in the city.
If a competitive purchase price can be agreed, part of the money used to purchase the building would come from a government grant.
Funds have also been provided for two council officers who will support residents to ease into the practicalities of running a home for the first time in months or years, including household budgeting and getting set up online to get cheaper bills and tariffs.
This property could be a great next step for those who have made a determined commitment to stay off the streets. They will be supported during a two-year tenancy by officers who will give them practical support to help them achieve their aim of becoming financially independent while living in long-term accommodation.
If this gets the go-ahead it would be a real benefit for our city and I’ll keep you updated of its progress.