March 23: Coronavirus (COVID-19) update from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council
Update on Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council's response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) from the Council Leader, Councillor Bob Cook.
Following Friday's declaration of a major incident across the Stockton-on-Tees, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Hartlepool council areas, we are now working within a well-established set of structures governing how agencies work together to respond to keep people safe and well-informed.
We are continuing to scale back a number of non-essential services to ensure we can focus our resources on those services that protect the most vulnerable.
Parks and play areas
We have closed all of our parks and play areas until further notice to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to support social distancing measures.
Household Waste Recycling Centre, Haverton Hill
SUEZ UK, which manages the site, has closed it until further notice due to high numbers of visitors and people not adhering to social distancing advice.
Cremations and burials
I am deeply sorry to inform people that we must follow national public health guidelines and put in place a number of restrictions on attendance at cremations and burials.
This means attendance at cremation ceremonies will be restricted to a maximum of eight people in the chapel, and eight people outside of the chapel. Chapel waiting rooms will be closed. For burials, only immediate family members will be able to attend at gravesides and graveside services will be limited to 15 minutes per burial.
Our Bereavement Services office is closed to the public except by appointment only. We cannot handle applications for memorials and the testing of memorials, as well as the collection and scattering of cremated remains, but we can assure families that cremated remains will be kept safe and secure.
Non-essential services such as family history searches will cease until further notice.
Customer Service points
The Customer Service points in our three main town centre libraries in Billingham, Stockton and Thornaby are now closed until further notice, but our phone lines remain open as normal. Taxi drivers needing to collect renewed licence plates will be offered a collection time.
Help for businesses
We are continuing to contact businesses eligible for the recently-announced financial assistance from Government and gathering their information securely so that we can get payments to them as soon as they become available. If you think your business qualifies for a grant and you have not yet heard from us, you can find more information at Help for businesses.
Help for the vulnerable and elderly
I've mentioned this in my previous updates but it's worth repeating. The Catalyst-led effort to protect Borough's vulnerable and elderly from the impact of Coronavirus is now in swing. An army of volunteers, community groups and businesses is hitting the streets to assist with things like food shopping and picking up prescriptions. This newly-assembled 'COVID Community Support Team' is operating seven days a week and is all about making sure help reaches those in our communities who need it most. You can find out all about it on the Catalyst website.
All Select Committee meetings have been cancelled until the end of May. Though I am reluctant at this point to propose a similarly blanket cancellation of Full Council meetings during these difficult times, we have agreed to cancel the Full Council meeting due to take place this Wednesday (March 25). We will make a decision about the meetings beyond that once we receive national guidance, which we are currently awaiting.
It is important that people remain calm, follow the latest national advice on the steps needed to reduce the spread of infection, and use only official sources of information when getting this advice.
For updates on all Coronavirus (COVID-19) related developments in Stockton-on-Tees - including health advice and disruptions to services - visit the Council's dedicated webpage Our People.