Luton coronavirus strategy: 'Protect social services, halt Vauxhall Way plan and use community centres as storage for foodbank'

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Closing community centres and a halt to the Vauxhall Way dualling project are part of the impact of coronavirus on Luton Borough Council.

A package of measures has been drawn up by the local authority to target resources more effectively.

It comes as 134 members of its staff were self-isolating at the end of last week, with that figure growing.

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In a statement to staff and councillors, chief executive Robin Porter said: “During this time, our main priority is protecting the most vulnerable, as well as the health and safety of our residents and our workforce.

The dualling of Vauxhall Way is to be suspendedThe dualling of Vauxhall Way is to be suspended
The dualling of Vauxhall Way is to be suspended | jpimedia

“Community centres will close on a progressive basis as social care services cease to be delivered.”

The first to do so is Bury Park, which was closed on Friday, March 20.

Mr Porter added: “We are currently talking to the NHS about the relocation of some services from Luton and Dunstable Hospital.

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“We are looking at Chaul End as a favoured location, as it is intended to keep that centre open throughout.

“If the NHS wish to use other centres they too will be kept open for that purpose. But our preference would be to close as many as possible to reduce running costs."

It was suggested that closed community centres will be used as storage space for Luton Foodbank during the coronavirus outbreak.

Councillors have been advised to stop holding face-to-face ward surgeries and to use alternative methods, although reaching those without internet access remains a struggle.

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A key concern is children’s social services, where the council is required to continue providing "critical safeguarding services” for vulnerable children and young people.

Luton Borough Council will prioritise the following critical social services during the COVID-19 pandemic:

> The multi agency safeguarding hub and assessment service for children at risk of harm.

> Children in custody.

> Procedures for new 16 and 17-year-old homeless teenagers, and unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

> Out-of-hours support for high risk family situations.

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> Corporate parenting service to help children keep maintain their placement, as well as monitor 18+ care leavers.

The council’s selective licensing for private landlords scheduled for May 1 will be deferred but the council’s commitment to offering first and second month discounts will remain.

Abandoned vehicles in the town will only be removed if they are a danger to road users or are in a hazardous condition.

The town centre master plan is also on hold as it was moving into a consultation phase. The dualling of Vauxhall Way design work will be suspended unless government funding is committed.

The council also expects to receive about £1m of council tax hardship funding.