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Council agrees to reinstate Bulky Waste Collection and look at possibility of waiving Burial Fees

30 April 2020
Elected members of Derry City and Strabane District Council today agreed to reinstate the Bulky Waste Collection service from next week and look at a mechanism to possibly waive burial fees at Council cemeteries during the COVID19 crisis.
 
These were among the issues discussed at a Virtual Members Briefing that took place this afternoon, Thursday, 30 April 2020, where Elected Members received an update from senior officers on how Council is continuing to provide essential services and responding to Government legislation and guidance during the current emergency COVID19 situation.
 
A Mayoral proposal to waive burial fees at all-owned Council cemeteries during the COVID-19 crisis was unanimously supported, pending a full report, detailing cost and how it could be implemented, to come before members in the coming weeks.
 
Members were informed how Council had earlier this week received the Principles for the Management of Waste Services from DAERA providing non-statutory guidance to Councils should they consider reopening recycling centres. They heard that while the non-statutory guidance does not require the reopening of recycling centres, officers are currently reviewing the guidelines with a view to possibly reopening some of the centres in a controlled and measured way over the coming weeks.
 
In the interim period, it was agreed that the Bulky Waste Collection Service, that was temporarily suspended a number of weeks ago to allow staff to focus on critical service provision, would be reinstated from Monday, 04 May.
 
Conor Canning, Head of Environment with the Council told members that arrangements for the possible reopening of a number of Household Recycling Centres would be progressed and brought forward to members for approval at a later date.
 
He said in the interim, it was important that the public continued to adhere to the Government COVID-19 legislation relating to non-essential journeys and staying at home. He said Council will continue to encourage the public use the refuse collection service and not to put additional pressure on waste services during this pandemic.
 
Members were also advised that Cemeteries across the Council area remain open to the public from 2.30pm to 9pm daily with no access in the mornings to allow for funerals and maintenance works. They heard how the cemeteries were exceptionally busy over the weekend with up to 7,000 people visiting over a two-day period, 5,000 of whom visited the City Cemetery. Strict social distancing guidelines, a one-way system and regular monitoring of the sites remain in place.
 
It was outlined to members that new regulations to allow for the operation of virtual Council meetings and to allow for the flexibility to postpone AGMS are expected to be released by the Department for Communities in the coming days.
 
Updated information regarding a number of changes made by the DfI in relation to major Planning Applications was also provided at the meeting while the current stance of a number of key capital projects was also outlined.
 
In relation to staff, members heard how frontline Council staff are now eligible to avail of COVID 19 testing at the Judges Road testing centre and that Council continues to, regularly consult, engage and communicate with its staff and unions.
 
In relation to finance, members heard how the current COVID-19 emergency situation has had a significant financial impact on Council. In particular, the emergency has resulted in a considerable loss of income from Council services and facilities along with additional cost pressures around waste and emergency expenditure, the overall quantum of which is currently being finalised.
 
Members heard how the Council, has been working along with the other Northern Ireland Councils to put into place mechanisms to reclaim emergency expenditure incurred during this emergency period from Central Government and to highlight the need for urgent Government intervention to assist Councils deal with the impact this financial downturn will have on its ability to provide public services.
 
A number of notices of motion were also put forward by elected members for discussion, they included a notice of motion, calling for Council to support the TUC’s campaign for additional employment protection for workers with a terminal illness diagnoses, which was unanimously supported. The motion resolved that Council support the TUC’s Dying to Work Campaign and sign up to the Charter, as well as encourage employers throughout the city and district to sign up to the Charter.
 
A further notice of motion seeking Council support for the NUS-USI Student Union campaign for greater support for students during the COVID-19 crisis was also supported by elected members where it was agreed Council should write to the Minister for Economy for a hardship fund to protect students.
 
Elected members also voted in favour of a Notice of Motion for Council to stand in solidarity with frontline workers, calling for all essential staff to receive some sort of remuneration during the emergency period. It was agreed that Council would write to the FMDFM requesting the release of financial support to fund this and that Government provide reassurances that no worker in the public, private or community and voluntary sector will suffer detrimently as a result of COVID-19.
 
Members also voted in favour of supporting the Derry Trades Union Council 'Time for Noise for Workers Rights' campaign showing support for workers for 24 hours where it was outlined to members how the Mayor had facilitated turning red, the Guildhall Clock and the lights on the Council buildings at Strand Road, in support of the campaign as part of Council’s week of events for Social Justice Week.
 
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Michaela Boyle, who chaired the meeting, extended her thanks to all frontline worker staff and reiterated the Stay at Home Stay Safe message. She paid tribute to Council members and staff for their continued strong leadership during this difficult time.
 
She welcomed the fact that Council voted in favour of her proposal to waive cemetery fees at Council cemeteries saying she looked forward to receiving a full report from officers on how this could be brought forward in the coming weeks.
She said the proposal, if ratified, would be a compassionate gesture by the Council to all those who have experienced loss during the COVID 19 emergency.