Community groups advised on continued restrictions to halls and centres

In late March 2020, East Lothian Council activated its ‘Business Continuity Plans’ in response to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency and focussed on the delivery of essential services and compliance with the Scottish Government’s Routemap Through and Out of the Crisis.

East Lothian Council Leader, Willie Innes, said: “As part of this response, East Lothian Council removed from use a number of its buildings which has impacted on many local community groups and organisations who traditionally met in Village Halls and Community Centres. Whilst the initial stages of the Routemap required individuals to observe physical distancing and groups to meet virtually, more recent relaxation of guidelines can provide a restricted resumption of some public gatherings indoors including indoor hospitality, wider retail and the tourism sector.”  

“However, to meet the enhanced service standards now required to comply with Scottish Government and Public Health requirements to keep our customers and service users as safe as possible and enable us to continue to provide essential public services such as education, customer services, catering and cleaning, significant numbers of council staff have been redeployed to provide additional staffing.”

“This essential redeployment of staff, coupled with the current public health guidelines requirements to clean buildings before and after each use, the requirement to collect customer details to support Test and Protect and the need to ensure safe physical layouts greatly stretches our available resources. In addition, many of our community buildings are much loved older buildings which do not lend themselves easily to safe operation in a ‘COVID’ world with meeting spaces/rooms too small to contain 2m physical distancing layouts.  For all of these reasons, unfortunately community buildings currently ‘mothballed’ will remain so for the foreseeable future.”

Community Groups have been advised on this situation and have been requested to hold their meetings virtually although a small number are choosing to hold face to face meetings in other local venues. Advice has been provided to follow all Scottish Government and Public Health Guidance

The Connected Communities Service and local Connected Communities Managers are able to provide advice to any local community groups seeking to improve their operation of virtual meetings and to assist with access to technical supports to enhance digital inclusion. 

By doing business virtually, community groups are making a huge contribution to supporting our county-wide business critical activity, and supporting the revitalisation of our community life and economy by reducing the risks of creating unnecessary coronavirus ‘bridges’ between households and communities – which could lead to greater incidence of positive cases across the county, impacting on critical service delivery such as education.   

Published: Friday, 4th September 2020