Leader provides update from Council in latest Column
Posted on 15 Apr 2020
I’d like to start this column by thanking everyone who got involved in our live Q&A broadcast last Wednesday evening.
Myself and our Chief Executive Craig Hatton felt it was really important that we made ourselves available to answer local residents questions during this very challenging period for all of us.
The live stream was a huge success, with many hundreds taking part and posing questions, and we hope the people who tuned in found it helpful.
I thought I would use this week’s column to cover a couple of issues that were mentioned and are particularly high on the agenda at the minute.
Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for frontline workers is of fundamental importance. It is about the health and safety of those workers who are out caring and supporting residents through this crisis.
The availability of PPE, alongside testing, has been at the forefront of the national coverage of Covid-19 and there have worrying reports of a lack of PPE across the country for workers on the frontline of the fight against the virus.
There have been big issues across the country with the supply of PPE. Global demand has risen and local supply chains are experiencing blockages. That’s why it’s been so important to press national government to step in and ensure that we have a sufficient national supply chain of PPE for all key workers.
Despite those supply chain pressures, here at North Ayrshire Council we have made an absolute commitment that workers on the frontline have access to the right equipment, including those working for private and voluntary care providers. We are confident that we have adequate stock of PPE locally and that we will continue to in the coming weeks and months. We will therefore absolutely meet the new revised government guidance on PPE, secured by the hard work of trade unions on behalf of their members.
As well as our work securing a supply chain of PPE, as a Council we are sharing resources across the whole Council, for example schools are donating science goggles and 3d printers, and making sure we are making the most of what we currently have. We have also received donations from local businesses and would urge others to get in touch if they feel they could help.
Another issue that is being widely debated is waste and the service we are currently providing.
What we are doing, which other local authorities are struggling to do, is maintaining our household waste collection services. Council staff are not immune to the virus and our waste team, like every other, have seen their resources stretched, but are showing a real resilience and determination to provide this service. They deserve enormous credit.
You will all be aware that we have had to temporarily close our Household Waste Recycling Centres, while we have also stopped carrying out our special uplifts. This is a decision that all 32 Scottish councils have been forced to make.
I fully understand why some residents, when they see us putting out messages about fly-tipping, have asked for recycling centres to open, even if on reduced hours. But I have to clear, the temporary closure of the centres is absolutely necessary.
We have to reduce the movement of people to a minimum if we are going to defeat this virus. While dumping rubbish might seem important and nobody likes to see mess build up in their property, it is not essential at this time. Key workers travelling to work is essential. Buying food is essential. Picking up medicine is essential. Going to the skip isn’t.
Even opening one HWRC or having a rota of reduced hours for all centres is not possible - it would simply encourage more people to come out at the same time, increase traffic, make social distancing more difficult and increase the chances of the virus spreading. Even if it is a small chance, we don’t think it is a risk worth taking.
I appreciate it’s difficult when you are stuck at home but please remember why we are doing this. It is about the health and safety of you, your family, your friends, your neighbours and our key workers. I know it is difficult being stuck at home but I would just ask you to please store any excess waste in your house or garden, until we are able to reopen our HWRCs, which we will do as soon as it is safe to do so. It would be hugely appreciated.
Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in fly-tipping in recent weeks. Our enforcement team issued 26 fines in 10 days and will continue to investigate new cases. They are receiving more and more assistance from members of the public who are as equally appalled when they see rubbish scattered around their communities. There is never a justification for fly-tipping and it is a criminal act – the enforcement teams pro-active work in recent weeks demonstrates that if you fly-tip they will identify you and issue a fine.
Please remember that fly-tipping will only take vital resources away from some of North Ayrshire’s most vulnerable residents.
Finally, I want to emphasise that if we stick together, show kindness to others, and follow the guidelines then we will beat this together.