Durham County Council has thanked kind-hearted residents for the flurry of messages of thanks received by its bin crews during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The council is ensuring residents’ refuse and recycling bins continue to be emptied as it strives to maintain delivery of essential services amid the government guidance aimed at restricting the spread of COVID-19.
The council has temporarily suspended bulky waste collections as of today to allow staff who work on them to support refuse and recycling. It is also utilising spare vehicles to limit the number of crew members in a cab, with the guidance around social distancing in mind.
Staff are also being given hand sanitisers, washing facilities are being added to vehicles and crew members are also being required to wear gloves – to protect both residents and employees.
And the crews have received a flurry of messages from residents. One left on a bin at Peterlee stated: “The valuable work you do doesn’t go unnoticed here. We very much appreciate it. Refuse collectors are a big part of our community and we would all be very lost without you.”
Another said: “Thank you for your continued commitment support and bravery in these complicated and challenging times. We really appreciate everything you do for us day in day out.”
Cllr Brian Stephens, the council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: “On behalf of all our crews I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has taken the time out in these difficult times to leave kind messages for them. “We are determined to ensure our essential services are maintained and bin collections certainly falls into that category.
“We are obviously doing everything that we can to ensure that all our services comply with the various government guidance and steps have been taken to ensure that is the case for bin collections.
“I cannot stress enough how much it means to our crews to get these lovely messages of thanks – thank you once again to those who have left them.”
Residents are also being asked to consider whether there is room for a bin wagon to get through when parking.
They are also asked to ensure that any residents who are self-isolating double bag personal waste such as used tissues and disposable cleaning cloths. Such items should be stored securely within a bag, with this then placed in another bag which is tied securely and kept separate from other waste. These should then be put aside for at least 72 hours before being put in external household waste bins.
Meanwhile, the council’s Clean and Green team is prioritising work linked to environmental heath, such as emptying of dog and litter bins, clearing fly-tipping and needle disposal.
Grass cutting is continuing with parks and recreations grounds, at which people can do their once daily exercise, and cemeteries prioritised. Other open spaces may be cut but this cannot be guaranteed. Weed spraying can also continue as staff wear protective gear.
All teams have stopped travelling in groups and are ensuring they comply with social distancing guidance while working.
The council’s neighbourhood wardens are similarly prioritising health and safety and environmental health matters, such as dealing with stray dogs, loose horses and fly-tipping – including deploying CCTV cameras to catch culprits. Again all wardens will comply with social distancing guidance while working.
Residents who have booked bulky waste collections are being contacted to notify them of the temporary suspension to the service and to offer refunds.
The council, on Friday, started making the first payments of government support grants to businesses. Staff have been working tirelessly to implement the guidance received on Tuesday and are now contacting more than 8,000 businesses in the county that are eligible for support.
The grants range from £10,000 to £25,000, depending on the size of the company.
Cllr Carl Marshall, cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We have worked extremely hard to implement the guidance received only a couple of days ago – with our staff contacting companies to obtain all the details required to make the payments. We are also asking companies to go online to submit their details so we can make their payments.
“It is fantastic that we have been able to start making the first payments today and we will continue to process payments as quickly as possible now that information has started coming in from our businesses – we know they need the money and we are prioritising making payments to them.
“I must also praise the staff who have been working on all of the business rates payments under what are incredibly difficult circumstances. We have already processed all of the business rate reliefs that were announced last week and revised bills were issued yesterday, providing further support to our local businesses.”
The council has also welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement of financial support for the self-employed.
Sarah Slaven, interim Managing Director at Business Durham said: “We welcome the measures announced by the Government that the many self-employed people in County Durham will receive some financial support during this challenging period.
“From talking to businesses, we understand that many need help sooner than June. We urge local business to consider, where appropriate, applying for Universal Credit and talking to their bank about the Business Interruption Loans while they wait for the scheme to begin.
“We are keeping a close eye on the announcements by Government and continue to work to keep businesses of all sizes across the county informed of the support available for them through our website and social media as well as speaking to many directly.”
The council has also paused work on all construction projects where its building and facilities maintenance team is the main contractor.