6.1. Councillor Barber, Portfolio Holder for the Town Centre, provided her annual update and confirmed that the Town Centre portfolio held responsibility for the following areas:
· Customer Services
· Carparks Operations
· Parking Enforcement
· Tourist Information Centre
· Regent Theatre / Town Hall / Corn Exchange
· Events Team
6.2. Combining the service areas into one portfolio had enabled an improved focus on the way the areas worked together and how they positively impacted Ipswich residents and improved the experience of the town centre and services provided.
6.3. Councillor Barber thanked IBC Officers for their work throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and highlighted the work of the Customer Service Centre for their co-ordination of the “Home but not Alone” service, where 2201 calls and 1625 forms from residents had been received between 26 March and 30 June 2020.
6.4. It was confirmed that as a result of Covid-19, it would be difficult to predict how areas of the portfolio would perform in the short and long term future. Where working practices had changed, these would be reviewed so that what had been successful could be used to improve the portfolio’s performance as the year progressed.
6.5. Councillor Pope asked if there had been any investigation into the impact which the potential closure of the Tourist Information Centre could have on tourism in Ipswich. Councillor Barber reminded the meeting that any decision on the Tourist Information Centre would be made by Executive at the meeting on 14 July but advised that the income generated by the Tourist Information Centre had been declining for a number of years.
6.6. Councillor Pope advised that several residents had noted their concerns about the closure of the Tourist Information Centre as this was viewed as a community hub within Ipswich. It was confirmed that there were a number of venues which could be booked through IBC including rooms available at the Town Hall.
6.7. Councillor Pope asked what other initiatives were in place which could encourage visitors into Ipswich. Councillor Barber advised that Ipswich Central, and Visit Suffolk worked to promote Ipswich as a destination. Once in Ipswich, Tourists could find information at Christchurch Mansion and Ipswich Museum.
6.8. Councillor C Smart asked if a review would be held on the effectiveness of parking for blue badge holders after complaints had been received following the traffic measures implemented around Upper Brook Street. Councillor Barber advised that this would be Suffolk County Councils’ responsibility and that they had been made aware of the issues. Councillor Barber confirmed that any issues regarding disabled parking in IBC Carparks would be investigated.
6.9. Councillor Lockington asked what the vision for the market was post Covid-19. Councillor Barber reported that investigation into other local markets had taken place to consider what changes could be made in Ipswich and how the utilisation of the market space available could be improved. Discussion had also taken place with Ipswich Central around how first-time market holders could be encouraged to use spaces available and regular discussions continued to take place with stall holders/food traders with regards to when trading would be resumed.
6.10. Councillor Lockington asked how much modelling and signposting for alternatives to the Tourist Information Centre had been undertaken. Councillor Barber reiterated that a decision had not been made but explained that this area would be examined further and noted that other forms of tourist information were provided by Ipswich Borough Council and that work would continue to consider how visitors could be encouraged to Ipswich.
6.11. Councillor Gage noted the excellent event attendance figures detailed in the report and asked if work would be undertaken to consider how information could be enhanced online with regards to what was available in the town. Councillor Barber reported that improvements to the information provided through the events programme was always under consideration.
6.12. The Chair thanked Councillor Barber and Officers for their attendance.