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Monday, 23rd March 2020

Council warns of huge reduction in services during Coronavirus emergency

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Councillors and officials keep their distance at this omrning's meeting.

This morning’s meeting of Louth County Council could not be held as normal in the Council Chamber because it is not large enough to allow for social distancing of two metres between the officials, elected representatives and media present.

So it was transferred to the Táin Theatre in Crowe Street, Dundalk where Chief Executive Joan Martin and her officials sat in front of the stage facing the councillors who were seated, two meters apart, in the stalls. Overlooking the whole scene were the media in the gallery.

It was agreed at the outset that, due to the need for social distancing, that only the most pressing issues would be taken and the rest adjourned to the next and subsequent meetings.

County Chief Executive Joan Martin started proceedings by giving a quick rundown of efforts to date to combat the Coronavirus which she said had “…essentially taken over our entire lives” at National, Regional and local level.

She warned that it was most likely that many Council services would be cut to allow staff, many of whom are already working from home, to concentrate on the most pressing issues raised by the Coronavirus.

It was a case, she said, of deciding which of the 600 services provided by the Council would be continued and warned that these could well be whittled down to just 13 of the most essential services such as fire, water, housing/homeless, payroll etc..

She said that since the schools closed last week it had left many staff members having to either find a childcare service or work from home. The Council had offered them flexitime but this didn’t completely solve the problem.

She said there were many issues to deal with and the situation was a rapidly changing one with a non-stop flow of information from various government departments all day, every day which was diverting many staff from their usual work.

“We also must remember that we have the Council to run” she said. “We’re trying to keep the show on the road. Many people are scared and we are trying to do our best for them.

Her key message, she said, was that they are following the advice of central Government departments and the HSE.

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