Belfast Telegraph

Belfast City Council gets £34k boost after 'perfect storm' of incidents

By Rebecca Black

Belfast City Council's emergency grant from Stormont has been increased after what has been termed as a 'perfect storm' of cinematic proportions.

A new council report has revealed a 'significant increase' of incidents that its workers have had to deal with, including almost 50 security alerts, numerous loyalist riots, four floods and two gas leaks this year.

There have also been several major events, such as the World Police and Fire Games and the G8 Summit.

Chairman of the council's Health and Environmental Services committee, Steven Corr, described the year as a perfect storm.

There has been the equivalent of a security alert a week, which although principally dealt with by police and Army, also called on council to provide local amenities such as community centres to shelter people evacuated from their homes.

The council has also had to deal with scores of loyalist flag protests this year, particularly in January, following the decision to limit the number of days the Union flag flies from city hall.

On top of that, this year council workers delivered 355 sandbags to cope with four separate floods which took place, and the severe winter snow last spring.

As a result, the emergency planning grant aid funding given to the council from the Department of Environment has been increased from £105,000 to £139,000.

Councillor Corr praised how council staff dealt with the workload, saying they had gone "above and beyond" to keep the city running smoothly.

"You had a combination of everything this year, like the film the perfect storm, where everything came together and produced the worst storm possible," he said.

"That had taken its toll on resources but we have been proactive, we are not just putting it down to one bad year, we are preparing in case we face the same next year to make sure we are ready, especially if the big freeze returns."

While Northern Ireland has faced criticism in the past for grinding to a halt during snow, the Sinn Fein councillor said this was no longer the case in Belfast.

"I think we are getting good at keeping the city rolling, which I think is to be commended."

The council's Emergency Planning Team and Cleansing Services are currently working to ensure that they are prepared for severe weather this winter.

FACTFILE

So far this year Belfast has faced

  •  45 security alerts: majority needing support centres
  •  Civil unrest: multiple rioting incidents requiring recovery work by cleansing staff
  •  four flooding incidents: one involving Westlink closure
  •  Severe winter weather: requiring snow clearance and community support
  •  two gas leaks: evacuation, and support centres needed
  •  a major fire: evacuation and community support required
  •  Protests at city hall: requiring security operations

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