Financial help, recruiting volunteers and not pursuing rent arrears are all measures Swindon Borough Council has announced to help during the coronavirus crisis.

The local authority will use £1.3m given by government to help people who are not already claiming the financial support they need.

And its partners in Compassionate Swindon will pair one of 500 people who signed up as a volunteer with vulnerable people needing support.

Council leader David Renard said: “I want to reassure those who live and work in Swindon that we are here to help you. Whether you own a business that has been hit hard by the events of the last few weeks or a resident who has no support network around you, help is at hand.

“The package of measures we are putting in place today is designed to ease some of the pressure and worry that some people may be facing in these uncertain times. We’ll be adapting these local measures in line with further national guidance and support announced by the government.

“We know they will not solve everyone’s problems, but it is important that as a council we do as much as we can to help the residents we are here to serve.

“We have an amazing community here in Swindon and we all need to support each other.”

Support for residents

1 Compassionate Swindon: volunteer support for those who most need it
• More than 500 Swindon residents have signed up for volunteering opportunities, including speaking to someone over the phone to offer some companionship or collecting shopping for those who are staying at home

2 Council tax relief to vulnerable people and households to help those affected most by coronavirus
• Council tax bills of working age people receiving Local Council Tax Support will be reduced for 2020/21

3 Emergency financial assistance for residents most affected by coronavirus
• The Council’s Emergency Assistance fund will support residents that have been severely affected by coronavirus causing them hardship

4 Supporting Council housing tenants
• Tenants affected by coronavirus are encouraged to contact the Council to discuss their circumstances:
• Support is available for those who fall behind on rent payments and the Council will not pursue tenants for rent arrears.
• Evictions will be avoided as long as tenants follow the advice and support from the Council’s housing officers

5 More parking options for key workers and residents making essential journeys
• Council parking tickets won’t be issued to those who are not usually allowed to use on-street residential, shared use, permit parking bays and limited waiting bays
• Parking tickets will only be issued to cars parked dangerously, on yellow lines and in disabled bays when not permitted
• Car parks will be opened up for residents with parking permits to use

6 Helping residents access library services online
• All books will be automatically renewed until libraries are reopened
• All library memberships due to expire before the end of June will be automatically renewed for six months
• eBook, eAudiobook and eMagazine will be available for residents

7 Extending bus pass use for older and disabled people
• These residents can use their bus passes before 9.30am

8 Priority re-booking and waiving fees for marriages postponed due to coronavirus
• Priority re-booking for weddings postponed at the Civic Offices
• Charges waived for Notice appointments for postponed marriages

Support for businesses

9 Supplying vital financial support to businesses
• 100 per cent business rate relief will be available for all retail, leisure and hospitality businesses for 2020-21
• A £10,000 grant to small businesses with a rateable value of less than £15,000
• A £25,000 grant to all retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value between £15,000-£50,999

10 Supporting non-for profit and commercial tenants in council properties
• Extra protection so businesses unable to pay their rent because of coronavirus don’t have to worry about being evicted
• Three-month rent deferral to commercial and not-for-profit tenants

11 Support for Swindon’s taxi drivers
• Extended Hackney and private fire driver licences with no charge for six months.
• Alternatively, drivers may wish to apply for a one-year licence at £70 instead of the usual three-year licences (£210).

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