Contingency plans for the safe operation of public buildings from January have been developed as a result of rising COVID-19 infection levels and concerns regarding the Omicron variant.
With the situation expected to remain extremely challenging in the coming months, the Scottish Government has asked councils to mobilise a further operational resilience response focussed on the first three months of 2022.
East Lothian Council will continue focusing on ensuring as many key facilities, including ‘anchor buildings’ in each local ward, stay open for the benefit of residents.
The operation of statutory services – including schools and care homes – will be the local authority’s top priority. This may mean that some regular bookings for activities may not be possible and the council apologises for any inconvenience this may cause. We must keep our staff and members of the public as safe as possible by reducing the risk of transmission.
But due to ongoing extreme staffing pressures owing to COVID-related and other staff absences and vacancies, affecting key roles including cleaning and caretaking, the council will temporarily close or reduce the use of some facilities into the new year so that it can focus on these priorities.
As a minimum, the council is planning to keep the following buildings open from 5 January:
- Port Seton Centre – (library open on Fridays only)
- Brunton Hall, Musselburgh
- Musselburgh East Community Learning Centre (operated by a partner organisation)
- Whitecraig Village Hub
- Wallyford Library (school use only)
- George Johnstone Centre, Tranent (the library hopes to be open three days each week)
- Ormiston Community Centre (for use by the Primrose Day Centre only)
- Elphinstone Community Centre (school use only)
- John Muir House, Haddington (Customer Services and Registration)
- John Gray Centre, Haddington (with library open on three days each week)
- Nungate Community Centre (operated by a partner organisation)
- Bridge Centre, Haddington (restricted use; operated by a partner organisation)
- North Berwick Community Centre (restricted use)
- North Berwick Library & Customer Services
- Bleachingfield, Dunbar (including library) (limited opening days to be confirmed)
Buildings which the council is hoping to also keep open in January are:
- Prestonpans Community Centre
- Prestonpans Library (for school use from across local area, four days a week)
- Musselburgh Library
- Wallyford Community Centre
- Hope Rooms, North Berwick (restricted use)
- John Muir Birthplace, Dunbar
Buildings which the council expects to be closed in January are:
- The Pennypit, Prestonpans
- Longniddry Community Centre
- Prestongrange Museum
- Longniddry Library
- Musselburgh Town Hall
- Trevelyan Hall, Pencaitland
- Macmerry Village Hall
- Ormiston Library (it is hoped a mobile library unit will continue to visit the village)
- Tranent Town Hall
- Haddington Corn Exchange (being used by NHS Lothian in support of the vaccination programme)
- Haddington Town House (closed for refurbishment)
- Gullane Library
- Dunbar Town House
- East Linton Library
Some buildings have been closed in recent weeks whilst a number of public toilets are currently closed, or being limited to use of the disabled toilet only, and this is likely to continue into January.
Emergency food provisions will continue to be co-ordinated by our staff working with volunteers from some community centres which host local pantries, to assist people who require additional assistance over the festive period and in to the new year – details of these will be provided locally.
The position will be monitored daily with a view to re-opening services as soon as practical, subject to staff availability and any national advice which may impact on service delivery.
Council Leader Norman Hampshire said:
“Significant staffing pressures are being faced by businesses and public sector organisations, as society responds to rising COVID-19 case numbers and emergence of the Omicron variant.
“East Lothian Council has been taking a responsive approach, managing resources and re-deploying resources appropriately to keep as many key facilities as possible open around the county.
“But the situation is likely to remain critical. We expect the shortage of staff, including cleaners, to continue and – whilst we have been taking steps to fill vacancies and mobilise temporary resources – we must plan now and give communities notice of which facilities, as a bare minimum, we’re planning to keep open from January.
“This includes maintaining customer access buildings in each area. We’re hopeful of keeping several others open but unfortunately, for a temporary period, several will be shut.
“I would like to thank residents for their patience and understanding regarding what are very difficult and frustrating decisions.
“The situation will be kept under review so that we can look to re-open facilities as soon as practical.”
Apart from the first lockdown, a form of physical library service has operated during the pandemic and is seen as a critical service, which the council is working to maintain as far as possible in support of bookbug sessions, digital support, click and collect provision and health and wellbeing support/groups.
Some community buildings require little or no cleaning support from the council’s Facilities Management service, as local arrangements are in place involving other partner organisation’s staff or users.