Members took part in an online meeting with senior Council officials to get an update on the Council’s service provision and contingency measures that are in place as the Council continues to work to provide as many essential services as possible.
Members were informed of that the introduction of the new Government COVID-19 legislation, with restrictions on movement led the Council to close all of its 11 Household Recycling Centres and under the new Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020, Council was instructed to close all its cemeteries to the public, except for funerals and burials.
It was acknowledged at the meeting that these were difficult decisions but were necessary as efforts are made by everyone to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Council acknowledged that since the closures it was receiving an increasing number of calls and queries from the public seeking advice on waste services and these are being dealt with accordingly, with priority being given to people with medical issues and problems with additional residual waste.
Members were advised that while Refuse Collection services are continuing to operate across the Council, senior officers are actively looking at a bespoke COVID-19 waste response mechanism that could assist in dealing with the increased pressure on waste services.
This is currently being scoped out and in the interim period the public are being asked to work with Council to try not to put additional pressure on waste services during this emergency period.
Litter warden staff have been deployed to assist environmental services staff to deal with fly tipping issues in hot spot areas and in response to complaints from the public, increased messaging discouraging the practice is being pushed out through the media and the Council’s communication channels.
In relation to the Government instruction to close the Cemeteries, members were advised that this is a directive for Councils across the North of Ireland.
It was acknowledged that this is a very sensitive and emotive issue for many and while Council fully appreciates the difficulty this Government directive has for many families who are grieving and want to visit their loved ones graves, it is out of Council’s control.
Council is also continuing to work closely with the Churches and undertakers in relation to funeral planning and cemetery arrangements.
A detailed presentation in relation to the work being done at a regional level with Government and statutory agencies with regard to a range of issues and responses to the emergency was provided at the meeting.
While detail relating to the work being done by Council in partnership with the Western Trust and the community and voluntary sector in relation to community resilience and the roll out of the funding package announced last week was also outlined to members.
The positive contribution and innovation shown by a number of local businesses and groups in providing PPE and much needed services during this difficult time was also acknowledged by members.
Members heard how the health and well-being of Council staff continues to be high on the Council’s agenda. Staff who can, are working from home, while those working in front line services have been provided with the necessary PPE and social distancing measures and provided with a range of support services including a staff helpline.
A significant number of Council staff have also been redeployed from their existing roles to other essential services across Council.The proactive work by Derry City and Strabane District Council was acknowledged by all Elected Members who said the Council was showing best practice in terms of dealing with the current emergency.
Members also acknowledged the implications the new legislation had on Council services and urged the public to co-operate with Council as they implement the instructions from Government.
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Michaela Boyle said while the new measures around Cemetery and Recycling Centre closures were restrictive, they were necessary and she was confident the majority of the public would co-operate fully and abide by the law and messaging around Staying at Home.
She said it was important that every single person across the Derry City and Strabane District Council area did their bit by acting responsibly during this emergency period by staying at home.
She added that businesses across the Council area also had their part to play in terms of the health and welfare of their staff and putting into practice the required health and safety measures outlined by the PHA.