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Council business and culture team reaching out to provide COVID-19 support

07 April 2020
Details of the level of support provided by Council’s Business and Culture Section to local businesses and those involved in the tourism and cultural sectors was outlined to Elected Members today following a special online briefing.
 
Members heard how officers from the Council’s Business and Culture team have been assisting local companies and small businesses to interpret what Government assistance is available and sign post them to the relevant support services and government departments that can help them source funds to lessen the impact of COVID 19.
 
Members heard how the team have been proactive in providing immediate support through a range of advice, support and referral schemes and providing a series of online mentoring and programme support as well as engaging directly with key stakeholder and industry partners to share information and collaborate on key issues.
 
Stephen Gillespie, Director for Business and Culture, told elected members how the business team had dealt with in excess of 200 queries from local businesses and how a bespoke COVID-19 SME toolkit, has been collated and updated daily, is available on the Council website.
 
He said a very specific, detailed and targeted mentoring support programme had been put into place to help companies deal with the key challenges they face during the current difficult climate. The business team have also taken a key role in securing supply contracts for much needed PPE and a leading role in co-ordinating the supply of accommodation and catering supplies to assist in the ongoing emergency response process.
 
In terms of marketing, elected members were informed how the team have been collaborating with the corporate communication team in terms of delivering a series of campaigns to promote responsible attitudes to waste and dog fouling and also promoting the positive work being done to roll out the community fund.
 
The marketing team are also involved in promoting the wider health and stay at home message and developing a comprehensive suite of signage that is being rolled out in public areas across the Council area reminding people of the social distancing message.
 
Members heard how the Culture team are in regular contact with their partners in the arts and cultural sector in relation to what funding support is available to them and have been very proactive in enabling eligible groups to obtain advance funding of their cultural grant aid allocation.
 
The team are also working with Visit Derry, the business support and food networks, the local Chamber of Commerce, Strabane BID company, CCI and others on a regular basis,  as well as those at a regional level to scope out what funding and support is available.
 
Stephen Gillespie concluded that the team are also making a range of preparations for recovery. They are looking at what type of support businesses would need to assist in getting back up and running and how Council can help in partnership with statutory agencies to play a key role in helping to rebuild the economy.
 
Elected members attending the briefing were also provided update in relation to other key services and were informed by the Chief Executive John Kelpie that Council’s essential services will continue to operate over the Easter period with bin collections, Council main phone lines and the new COVID-19 waste services helpline, all operating on Good Friday, Easter Monday and Tuesday.
 
Members heard that the new waste Helpline, set up by Derry City and Strabane District Council on Monday, has been busy, recording over 400 calls on the first day resulting in 80 bookings for additional waste collections.
 
It was reiterated to members that the new waste response system is only for those with excess residual, brown bin and garden waste, with no provision being made for bulky waste collections at this time. Callers to the helpline are being encouraged to continue to fully utilise the existing refuse collection services that continue to operate as normal, while teams continue to work on the ground to deal with the issue of flytipping and dog fouling.
 
Members praised the roll out of the new helpline and welcomed the proactive approach being taken by Council to put a strong emphasis on the recycling message by re-enforcing the need for the public use the bins they have and where possible not to put additional pressure on this essential service.
 
During the online meeting with senior Council officials, members were also provided with an update on all other Council’s service provision and contingency measures and how Council is continuing to work to provide as many essential services as possible.
 
Updated information with regard to community resilience and the roll out of the significant financial package for the community and voluntary sector was also provided at the meeting,
 
Information on how the Council is working with the Western Trust and other statutory bodies, the community and voluntary sector, to co-ordinate a joint up approach across the Council area in terms of providing community support and the distribution of food packages to those in need, was also provided.
  
The proactive work by Derry City and Strabane District Council was once again acknowledged by all Elected Members, who said the Council was showing best practice in terms of dealing with the current emergency.
 
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Michaela Boyle said Derry City and Strabane District Council continued to show strong leadership throughout this difficult time and welcomed the fact that many services will be continuing over the Easter period.
 
She once again encouraged the public to be responsible and to take heed of the Government instruction to stay at home. She said she hoped many would not be tempted to take advantage of the warm weather by visiting local beauty spots and urged everyone to do their bit to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by staying at home.
 
Extending a Happy Easter message to the public, the Mayor praised the people of Derry and Strabane for their continued support and resilience.
 
“We all have our role to play in this. For many of us it is a simple one. Be safe, Be sensible, Be responsible and Stay at Home.”