Aberdeen City Council is aiming to close schools for an extra day – as well as giving the go-ahead for some services to be stood down or partially stopped while the city is in level four.
Councillors held an urgent business committee over Aberdeen’s move to level four alongside the rest of mainland Scotland from Boxing Day.
In the meeting, it was approved that Aberdeen City Council should seek an agreement from the Scottish Government to state that an additional closure day should be given on January 5 to allow planning to take place for the safe return of vulnerable children and the children of key workers to school.
A formality, the request will now be passed on to the Scottish Government.
It was also approved that where any further action may be required by the council over the festive period, from December 23 to January 5, they will be determined by the Covid-19 Duty Emergency Response Co-ordinators (DERCs), in consultation with co-leaders and relevant conveners and vice-conveners where necessary.
Councillor Alex Nicoll, leader of the SNP group, brought forward an amendment for a meeting of the urgent business committee to be held virtually in the case a decision needed to be made, however convener of the urgent business committee Councillor Jenny Laing said that these needed the support of officers, who deserved to have a break over the festive period.
Aberdeen City Council co-leader Councillor Jenny Laing said: “Teams does allow us that flexibility to come together at short notice and I completely agree that councillors should be available to do that despite the festive break we’re about to head into, particularly given the situation we’re about to find ourselves in.
“However the reason we’ve brought forward that recommendation that’s before us is more around that officer core because as we all know, even if a meeting can be called at short notice, it does require the support of officers to bring forward the reports and information and indeed set up the situation to run the meeting itself. It was on that basis it was determined to bring forward the recommendation that it would be a better course of action to put in place that there could be consultation with co-leaders and indeed conveners and vice-conveners of the relevant committees should that be required over this two week period.
“We do all recognise the Covid-19 situation has led to officers all over the council having to work really long hours over the last nine months in order to make sure we’re meeting the needs of the public in Aberdeen and indeed the duties the council has. As a result of that, we are keen to try and make sure as many officers as possible have that chance to have the break over the Christmas period so they have an opportunity not just to spend time with their families, but also to recharge their batteries.”
Services which have been identified to be either fully or partially shut down as a result of level four include all public sector buildings such as libraries, although they will be able to still use click and collect, communities centres will be able to operate for essential services only, while tradespeople home repairs and working in someone else’s home should only take place for essential work or services, such as to carry out utility safety checks, repairs, maintenance and installations or to carry out repairs and maintenance that would otherwise ‘threaten the household’s health and safety.’
Aberdeen Art Gallery will also close while in level four, school crossing patrols will be stood down until children return to full-time in-school learning, all outdoor lets on playing fields will be cancelled while in level four, and the Town House will remain closed other than around committee meetings deemed to be essential.
Meanwhile, Councillor Marie Boulton also asked whether there was any plans to test children in schools for Covid-19, following on from news that it was being considered in England.
Eleanor Sheppard, chief education officer at Aberdeen City Council, said: “I know if you go back to the strategic framework when it was published there certainly was an intention at level four to do that, I haven’t had any further detail on that at this point but I believe there have been some test sites over the last couple of months to look at plotting a route through that.”