'First is not best' - call for cautious approach to reopening Northumberland's services

The Labour opposition on Northumberland County Council is urging the authority to take a cautious approach to reopening services and facilities.

Friday, 12th June 2020, 10:12 am
File picture of Coun Scott Dickinson, deputy leader of the Northumberland Labour group, left, with leader Coun Susan Dungworth.

The group’s deputy leader, Coun Scott Dickinson, said: “After weeks of sacrifice, we are all keen to get facilities back open and return to some kind of normality, albeit different to what we’ve been used to because of the need to continue social distancing.

“Whether it’s our town centres, public toilets or other facilities, we must ensure staff are safe. If staff are safe, then the public we serve will be safe.

“This is definitely a case where first is not best; there will be no prizes for rushing to be the first local authority to reopen services and facilities if they need to be closed again because of a re-emergence of the virus.

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“In our view, the operational managers are best placed to know what will work in their area, so we’re urging the council to work closely with them and only ask them to do things that they would be prepared to do themselves.

“We have heard over and over again that we’re all in this together. If we were in all this together at the lockdown, then we should make sure we are all in this together as we reopen facilities.

“I’m sure the public wants to know that the arrangements are in place to protect them and to protect the staff who work there. That way, everyone stays safe and that’s the important thing.”

The council closed almost all of its facilities as the lockdown began, although it has continued to operate key services such as bin collections.

The first public facilities to reopen – with new restrictions in place – were the county’s 12 household waste recovery centres on Monday, May 4.

A spokeswoman from Northumberland County Council said: “Our overriding priority is the health and safety of our own staff and that of members of the community in Northumberland.

“At all times, we are following the latest guidance and against this considering very carefully which services are required at this time, and which can be operated safely.

“We are keeping this continually under review, working very closely with service teams and operational managers.

“Covid-19 has changed the way that we can provide some of our services and we are actively looking at how we can adapt to ensure that we can deliver them safely, both now and in the future.”

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