Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council heard today that all Council owned facilities such as Cemeteries and Household Recycling Centres that are currently closed, will remain so for the unforeseeable future following the extension of Government restrictions that were announced last night.
Elected Members took part in an online Briefing this afternoon, Friday, 17 April 2020, where they were provided with an update on all services and the work being done across all departments to keep critical and as many other services operational.
Members heard at the meeting how it was 5 weeks since Council took the initial decision to close public buildings including all of its leisure centres, civic buildings and how Government legislation, that came into force the weeks later, had required Council to close its cemeteries. It was acknowledged at the meeting that this was a difficult decision and while we understand the difficulty it poses for many, it is important that we act within the law and do all we can to encourage the public to Stay at Home.
In terms of the closure of the Household Recycling Centres, in keeping with Government advice on non-essential journeys and staying at home, these will also remain closed for the unforeseeable future and reviewed regularly, in keeping with Government legislation and advice.
Members were told that Council continues to working in close partnership with all other Councils, Government departments and statutory agencies in a collaborative approach to dealing with issues affecting the public during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Elected members heard about the work being done in partnership with the other Councils to look at mechanisms to reclaim expenditure incurred during this emergency period and how the majority of staff continue to work from home, with front line staff continuing to show up to carry out essential services.
Council’s key focus continues to be on the provision and maintenance of critical services such as refuse collections, street cleansing, birth and death registrations, environment enforcement services and cemetery provision with as many other essential services across all Directorates and support units operating as normal as possible.
The new waste Helpline – 028 71376590 – set up by Derry City and Strabane District Council to help deal with priority cases of excess waste continues to operate and plans are in place to roll out brown bins over a six week period starting from next Monday.
Updated information with regard to the role played by Council in assisting DfC with the community hub and the work being done by the Community Services team and wider staff working through the Local Growth Partnerships and the delivery partners across the community and voluntary secto, was also provided. Members acknowledged the impressive collective effort across the Council area being done to assist people and communities in need.
Members heard how a new community support section of the Council website was being developed to sign post people to the relevant support agencies as well as provide useful information and advice and how work was ongoing to roll out the significant financial package provided by Council last month for the community and voluntary sector.
In terms of reaching out to the business community, members heard that its business support team was working very proactively in providing advice and support to local businesses through a range of support programmes and online training forums. The section was playing a key role in signposting businesses to the relevant Government department or agency for financial support and advice and how to source funds to lessen the impact of COVID 19. The team have also produced an online toolkit that was regularly updated on the website.
The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Michaela Boyle thanked everyone for the update and extended her thanks to officers for their work in keeping Council services operational. She said she would continue to do all she can to reiterate the Stay at Home message to the public and reach out to communities across the Council area.
She said plans were at an advanced stage to host a Virtual Tea Dance in partnership with BBC Radio Foyle and that she was also hoping to launch details of a number of Mayoral initiatives in the coming weeks.
Concluding the Mayor urged everyone to stay safe by staying at home and thanked everyone for their continued co-operation. She made a special plea to those families out there who are grieving at this time. She said her heartfelt sympathy goes out to each and everyone of them at this difficult time, but it was vitally important they adhered to the guidelines and refrained from visiting the cemeteries or burial grounds.
“We can get through this by working together. We are a strong united community that care about one another. You can show your love by staying at home and protecting our most vulnerable,” she said.