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Coronavirus: Northern Ireland councils to focus on bins and burials

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NILGA’s Derek McCallan

NILGA’s Derek McCallan

NILGA’s Derek McCallan

Councils in Northern Ireland will focus on critical core services - bins, burials and registrations - as the coronavirus crisis deepens.

However, councils are also expecting that at some point, their workforce will drastically reduce, according the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA).

Some councils have already said they are closing facilities, such as leisure centres.

Belfast City Council has agreed that leisure centres would close, as well as St George's Market, the Ulster Hall, Belfast Zoo, Belfast Castle, Waterfront Hall and pitches and pavilions. All standing committees have been suspended.

Parks will remain open but play grounds will be shut as a preventative measure. City Hall will remain open for the registration of births, deaths and marriages, but will close to the general public.

Lord Mayor Daniel Baker said: "We know this is a time of great concern and worry for people and that is understandable; this is a really challenging time for all of us and we are dealing with something which is unprecedented." Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has taken a decision to close all its public buildings, except where statutory services - such as registrations - are to be delivered.

Councils in Northern Ireland will be taking their lead from the advice provided by the Public Health Agency (PHA).

NILGA chief executive Derek McCallan said: "The priority, as always in a civil contingency situation, is to reduce the threat to life for more vulnerable people.

"To that end council staff are being asked to minimise contact with those who are potentially more susceptible, providing service and advice by phone."

"Applying the key PHA message that excellent hand, sneeze and cough hygiene is our most important habit is vital and beyond this every aspect of service delivery and wellbeing is being diligently pursued to minimise risks," said Mr McCallan.

The primary focus for councils is the continuity of critical functions for the public - waste collection and disposal, registration, and burials.

Other functions may be deferred for a period of time if required, and staff may be spread around locations to meet greatest need.

At some point, parental caring and home working, along with those ill and self-isolating, will significantly reduce the workforce and affect services, NILGA said.

Councils are also considering their approach to enabling parental leave in the event of schools' closures.

This situation could continue for several months and has not yet peaked.

Council staff may also be redeployed staff into carrying out the critical functions.

Belfast Telegraph