Elected members held an online meeting today, Monday, 23 March, with senior Council officials to get an update on the Council’s contingency planning for COVID-19 where it was agreed that all Council owned buildings and play parks would remain closed until further notice.
Members had initially agreed earlier this month to close Council buildings to the public for an initial two-week period however today members agreed to extend that closure period until further notice. It was also agreed that in addition to all Council major events that have been cancelled up until the end of August, events held in Council venues such as the Alley and the Guildhall, should all be cancelled until the end of May.
Members were given a detailed update in relation to Council services and how every effort is being made to provide as many services as possible with some staff being relocated and redeployed across a wide range of services. They were informed that work is continuing in relation to the phased closure of play parks with staff continuing to erect signage and where possible, close off access. The Council will be actively encouraging the owners of private play areas to follow its example. The public are being reminded of their responsibility to adhere to the Public Health Authority guidelines around social distancing.
Contingency measures regarding bin collection services and cemetery provision were also provided at the meeting as well as details of new traffic management systems that have been put in place at Pennyburn Recycling Centre to help cope with the increase in usage and to re-enforce the social distancing guidelines.
Members were informed that in line with Government guidelines, many Council staff are working from home while others providing front line services continue to report to work where internal working arrangements that include social distancing and additional health and safety measures continue to be implemented.
Members were of the view that the key decision making process should continue for as long as possible and that the Full Council meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon will go ahead online only.
Elected members were informed that the Council’s Business Support team are working proactively to support local businesses by disseminating the information from Central Government in relation to rates relief and business support. Staff are on hand to offer advice and guidance to local businesses and have developed a toolkit that is available online.
In relation to community resilience and community support, members were informed that Council is continuing to look at funding mechanisms of how it can provide support to the local community sector at this time. It was also outlined to members how previously agreed grant aid support for cultural venues will be advanced to allow groups to access monies as soon as possible.
Members were informed that while Council has no remit with regard to the licensing of ice cream vendors, officers from its environmental health teams will be writing to them advising them of the Public Health Authority guidelines and urging them to act responsibly. It was also agreed that Environment Health staff would continue to engage with food operators and takeaways with regard to this also.
Members also heard how Council officials are continuing to engage with all statutory agencies and Government departments in relation to joined up working and supporting each other during this challenging time.
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Michaela Boyle, chairing the meeting, welcomed the update and praised the efforts of Council in making key decisions at this challenging time.
Providing reassurance to the public, the Mayor said that while Council facilities are closed to the public, essential services will continue for as long as possible and they can contact the Council directly at 028 71253 253 or follow Council on Twitter and Facebook and on the Council website at www.derrystrabane.com/coronavirus for regular updates.
She encouraged the public to take note of the advice from the Public Health Agency in particular in relation to social distancing. She said scenes witnessed across the Council area and wider North West region over the weekend where worrying and it was important everyone behaved responsibly and did their bit to prevent the spread of this virus.
She also urged the public to watch out for elderly family members, neighbours and friends. She praised the efforts of health workers, shop assistants, bin collectors, delivery men and all those providing the essential services during this difficult and challenging time.
“By working together and looking out for one another we can all do our bit to limit the spread of this virus and protect our local community by taking the necessary precautions to stay safe,” she concluded.