Test Valley Borough Council is continuing to prioritise its essential services to support local communities amid the coronavirus outbreak, though its public receptions in Andover and Romsey, playgrounds and community venues are now closed for the duration of the lockdown period.

 Bin collections and street cleaning are continuing to go ahead as normal and the authority’s other critical services, including homelessness support, will remain available.

 Earlier this week, the council announced that all its car parks will be free of charge while the lockdown restrictions are in place. This is to ensure that those collecting essential supplies for themselves and others can do so speedily and safely, and will also ensure adequate parking for those who live in and around the town centres who are now confined to their homes.

The council is also setting up schemes to enable its residents and businesses to access the range of financial support announced by the government.

This includes awarding money from the government hardship fund, which will see working age residents currently receiving council tax support offered up to £150 off their council tax bill.

The authority is also working to identify all businesses eligible for the Small Business Grant Fund and the expanded Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant business rates relief. The council plans to write to eligible businesses in the next few days and hopes to make payments as quickly as possible once the government funding arrives in early April.

The government has created a dedicated website, www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/, with information about all of the schemes the chancellor announced to support businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Leader of Test Valley Borough Council, Councillor Phil North, said: “These are clearly incredibly difficult and worrying times for everyone, which is why we are doing everything we possibly can to maintain those critical services for our residents. Continuing to operate waste collections and other key services, such as homelessness support, is absolutely vital. I would like to say a big thank you to all Test Valley Borough Council staff for their commitment to our communities.

 “Residents and businesses are understandably keen to access the financial support announced by the chancellor. We are receiving information and guidance from the government on a daily basis and our teams are working hard to put schemes in place as soon as possible.

 “I cannot begin to put into words my gratitude for all essential workers, and in particular our NHS colleagues, for keeping us all safe and well.

 “I would urge the public to please stay home to save lives.”

 Residents can contact the council on 01264 368000 or 01794 527700, or email customerservices@testvalley.gv.uk

 For more information visit www.testvalley.gov.uk/coronavirus

 The council’s parks remain open for people to exercise but the authority is reminding residents to ensure they follow the government’s guidelines on social distancing. All community events have been postponed.