Agenda and minutes

Venue: Council Chamber, City Hall, Belfast

Contact: Mrs Louise McLornan  Email:


No. Item



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            The Chief Executive submitted the summons convening the meeting.




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Apologies were reported on behalf of Alderman Spence and Councillors Graham, Groves, Howard, M. Kelly, McCusker, McMullan and Mulholland.



Declarations of Interest

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Councillor McKeown declared an interest in that he was employed by the Public Health Agency and left the meeting whilst this item was under discussion.



Explanation of the Agenda and the Meeting

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            The Chief Executive provided the Council with an update on the latest actions and plans which the Council’s Emergency Planning teams had been involved in.  She also advised the Members that business continuity planning was in place for each of the Council’s critical services.


            She advised the Council that, in response to the decisions taken at its meeting on Friday, 13th March:


·         the City Hall was closed to the public, with the exception of registering births, deaths or marriages, or for weddings and civil partnership ceremonies which had already been booked;

·         all other functions or events in the City Hall would be cancelled until further notice;

·         Malone House and Belfast Castle would be closed to the public, apart from those functions which had already been booked at those venues;

·         The Tropical Ravine, the Palm House and Belfast Zoo were closed to the public until further notice; and

·         Pitches and pavilions would be closed until further notice.


            She explained that the Special Council meeting had been called by the Lord Mayor to discuss a proposal calling on all Leisure Centres across the City to close, as well as to discuss any other issues relating to the Coronavirus (Covid 19) outbreak.


            Moved by Councillor Beattie

            Seconded by Councillor Murphy


      This Council, in light of the Coronavirus outbreak, calls on Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) to close all of its Leisure Centres in Belfast immediately.



            Moved by Councillor Matt Collins,

            Seconded by Councillor Ferguson,


      In the interest of public health, and to protect staff and the public, this Council will temporarily close major services to the public, including leisure centres, and events centres like the Ulster Hall and the ICC Belfast.  We urge management organisations such as GLL and other organisations to continue to pay staff in line with the Council’s approach.  Community Centres will also shut, but can remain in use for exceptional or unnecessary meetings and to help the vulnerable where needed.  All workers who can be redeployed or can work from home will be facilitated.  Parks and Cemeteries will remain open, but playgrounds will shut.  Necessary services, such as recycling centres and cleansing will remain open.  The Council also calls on bars to shut over the St. Patrick’s Day period.  While this shutdown occurs, Council management and elected representatives will work with the relevant Stormont departments to develop a relief system for workers and the self-employed throughout this crisis.


            Councillor Beattie accepted the amendment.




            Moved by Councillor Long,

            Seconded by Councillor Dorrian


      In light of the developing coronavirus situation, and in line with current scientific evidence, the Council agrees to request that GLL implements a phased closure of leisure centres with an initial reduction in hours at every centre in line with the policy of social distancing and using a risk mitigation plan. 

We recognise that there is likely to be phased closure of further venues where social distancing will not be practical.

We also give the authority to the Chief Executive, in discussion with Party Leaders, to seek  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Convention on Decision Making During the Covid 19 Outbreak

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            The City Solicitor advised the Council that, in accordance the meeting which had taken place with Party Group Leaders earlier that day, he had drawn up the following Convention to outline the continuation of decision making during the Covid 19 outbreak.  He presented it for the Council’s consideration:


“In accordance with Standing Order 41 and paragraph 2.3 of the Scheme of Delegation the Chief Executive undertakes to exercise her powers in the following way and subject to the considerations set out below.

All Standing Committees will be suspended until Party Group Leaders or a majority thereof agree that the normal governance procedures may be resumed.

In any case the Chief Executive reserves the right not to exercise her delegated authority and to require a decision to be taken by committee.

In exercising delegated authority the Chief Executive is not required to but may consult Party Group Leaders.  This may be in the form of a collective meeting or by remote means including email, teleconferencing and telephone. In taking decisions the Chief Executive will have regard to party group strengths. On all matters relating to Planning and Licensing the Chief Executive will consult the Director of Planning and Place and the City Solicitor prior to exercising delegated authority.

All decisions will be reported to Members.

Business to be transacted through the operation of delegated authority will be published to Committee Members as per the usual procedures. Members of those Committees will be required to liaise with their Party Group Leader before the decision date.  Rules established under the 2014 Act relating to Call-In will continue to apply unless suspended.  Any decision by the Chief Executive to suspend Call-In will be taken having regard to the views of Party Group Leaders and the City Solicitor.

The decisions which may be made through the use of delegated authority exclude all or any matters which are required to be considered by the Council and any matter in which third parties have a statutory right to make oral representation before Committee or Council.

Contentious business meetings would be held with Party Group Leaders, or their nominee, to consider significant or politically sensitive decisions.

In the event that the Chief Executive is not content to exercise her authority, and believes that the decision should be made by a Committee, that the Council agrees to delegate authority to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee to exercise that function.”



            Moved by Councillor Beattie,

            Seconded by Councillor McLaughlin and

      Resolved - that, in the fourth paragraph, the word “will” be replaced with “shall” and that the sentence would read as follows:

“In taking decisions the Chief Executive shall have regard to party group strengths.”



            Moved by Councillor Long

            Seconded by Councillor McDonough-Brown and

      Resolved - that, the last line be altered to read:

that the Council agrees that a Special Meeting of the Council be called to exercise that function.”

            Accordingly, the motion, as amended, was put to the Council in the following form and agreed:  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.