Media round-up for Wednesday, March 25, 2020

This round-up is intended to keep the media briefed on the COVID-19 impact on Council services across Aberdeenshire. The public can keep up to date with changes online at https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/featured-items/coronavirus-covid-19/  
National position
 
 The Scottish Government sent out an update yesterday (Tuesday, March 24):

• As of 2pm yesterday (Tuesday) there were 9,968 Scottish tests: 9,384 were negative, and 584 positive. 16 people who have tested positive for coronavirus (Covid-19) have sadly died.
• Across the UK, DHSC report a total of 90436 tests concluded: 82359 were confirmed negative, and 8077 positive. 422 people who have tested positive have sadly died.

• Statements:
FM on latest measures
o Justice Secretary Humza Yousef updates the Scottish Parliament on the work carried out by the justice sector

• Scottish Government News Releases issued yesterday
£1billion Business Support Fund opens
Campsites and caravan parks to close
Call for action to help the self employed 
Emergency Coronavirus/Covid-19 powers

• Social media
o In this video, National Clinical Director Jason Leitch explains the importance of social distancing
Advice for pregnant women
Small businesses can now apply for grants to help them deal with the impact of Coronavirus/Covid-19
o A reminder to parents to get their children immunised during the outbreak

Fiona Robertson, SQA Chief Executive and Scotland’s Chief Examiner, yesterday issued an update about the completion of coursework. 

Aberdeenshire Council: Service arrangements

Getting in touch

We appreciate that the UK-wide lockdown is concerning for residents and the communities of Aberdeenshire.

Aberdeenshire Council remains available to support and advise anyone and services continue to be delivered. The way they are delivered is evolving and changing but staff are still available on the phone to offer advice, online services are being prioritised and the channels of communication remain open.

The website is the best first point of contact: www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk
You can also go onto this page to find a list of all the important phone numbers if you would like advice on services, from waste collections to education and everything in between: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/contact-us/contact-by-phone/

Committee meetings

Currently Committee meetings will be going ahead as planned over Skype. Links to the recordings will circulated afterwards.

Waste and recycling

Permit Scheme and Kerbside Collection Changes postponed
• In light of the impacts surrounding Covid-19, the introduction of Aberdeenshire Council’s permit system for Household Recycling Centres and roll-out of the three-weekly kerbside roll-out have both been postponed

Household collection services 

• During recent days, some members of the public have been telling our household collection crews to go home. Please note that these members of staff are working diligently to provide a critical service to empty bins to ensure public health is maintained. Please let our crews get on with their essential job and keep a safe distance away.
• Some people are also leaving waste material at the gates to our recycling centre gates which are now closed. Please be considerate and dispose of all your recycling and waste using the bins you have at home.
• We are experiencing a large volume of bagged and in some cases loose rubbish alongside household bins. Please note having to handle bags directly poses a health risk to workers. All waste should be contained in bins as per usual collection policy.
• To save space in bins, avoid buying items with excessive packaging where you can, squash air out of plastic bottles, stack plastic pots inside each other, put paper and card inside a cereal box, squeeze air out of non-recyclable waste bags and compost your garden waste at home.
• We are doing our best to get bins emptied on scheduled collection days. If we miss your bin, please check for updates on Facebook on whether we will be able to come back, otherwise put your bin out on your next scheduled collection day.
• With many people now working from home, additional cars parked on streets are causing serious access issues for our refuse vehicles, resulting in missed collections. We appreciate there are limitations, but if it is at all possible, please park somewhere else on your bin day.

Planning

We will continue to receive, validate, process and take decisions on planning applications. Whilst our planning and building standards offices are currently closed, you can still contact our teams by phone (01467 534333) or email (planning@aberdeenshire.gov.uk).

Any meetings required will be conducted by Skype or over the telephone. Communication will occur through email, phone, Skype video calls and letters.

Local Development Plan

We will continue to work on the Proposed Local Development Plan in preparation for the eight-week consultation period. In order to follow Government guidance, amendments to how this will work are being worked out. To get in touch please email ldp@aberdeenshire.gov.uk

Environment and Archaeology

Our Environment, Archaeology and North East of Scotland Records Centre (NESBReC) teams continue to provide normal level of service. The team can be contacted via: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/planning/ 

Parks and Open Spaces 

Country parks and open spaces will remain open but social distancing guidelines must be observed. Toilets in country parks, open spaces and in cemeteries have closed. Play areas are also closed. 

Communities

Housing 
Housing officers continue to be available to provide advice and support. The team can be contacted on 03456 081203.

Business Services

Licensing

Our Licensing Team is still accepting applications, although the team is asking customers to submit only essential applications or paperwork and to complete electronic forms where possible. If necessary, your application should be sent electronically to lilcapps@aberdeenshire.gov.uk 

Your application should be signed. Any necessary documentation should accompany the application. If you do not have scanned/electronic copies of documents, you can provide photographs. Images of documents must be clear and legible.

Once we receive your application, we will review it and contact you to arrange payment over the telephone. Please do not send us cash.

Please find electronic copies of our applications and granted licenses

Licensing Sub-Committee and Board Meetings will held virtually, as with area and policy committees.

Trading Standards: Watch out for ‘bogus callers’

Unfortunately, scams exploiting Covid-19/Coronavirus are currently occurring. Be aware of people or businesses promoting or promising:

• Virus testing kits – these are only offered by the NHS.
• Vaccines or miracle cures – there are currently no vaccines or cures available.
• Overpriced or fake goods to protect yourself from Covid-19/Coronavirus such as antibacterial products.
• Shopping or medication collection services.
• Home cleaning services.

Here is some advice to protect yourself:

• Don’t be rushed into making a decision. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
• Only purchase goods from legitimate retailers. Think before parting with money or personal information.
• Don’t assume everyone is genuine. It’s okay to reject, ignore or refuse any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
• If someone claims to represent a charity, ask for ID. Be suspicious of requests for money up front. If someone pressures you into accepting a service, they are unlikely to be genuine. If you are unsure check with friends or family before accepting offers of help.

For guidance or more information please contact Consumer Advice Scotland on 0800 164 6000 and visit the Aberdeenshire Trading Standards Twitter account and the Trading Standards webpage for the latest advice and information. 

Children’s Services: Child protection

Our Children’s Services Social Work Teams are continuing to offer families vital support for the protection of our most at-risk children and young people in these difficult times. 

Wherever possible, social workers will maintain contact with families via Skype or 
Facetime but we also recognise that face to face contact will remain a vital part of our Service in line with NHS advice and guidance.   

If you need to speak to a social worker yourself or you are worried that a child or a young person is at risk or being abused, please phone 01467 537111 (9-5pm) or for out of hours emergency support phone 03456 08 12 06. 

Business support grants
 
Businesses can now apply for help to the Scottish Government Coronavirus Business Support Fund. The fund is administered by local authorities and depending on the type and size of the business premises, applicants can apply for either a £10,000 grant or £25,000 grant.
 
To apply, please complete the business support application form and email it to business.grants@aberdeenshire.gov.uk
 
This is in addition to the wider support available to the business community which can be found at https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/business/business-covid-19/#grants