Emergency response cover to be rolled out across council

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Existing emergency response arrangements in Ballymena are to be rolled out across the Mid and East Antrim area, councillors have heard.

An update on emergency planning was provided to members of the super council at Monday night’s meeting of the Operational Committee.

The move follows budget cuts which saw the Department of the Environment withdraw the Emergency Planning Grant of £580k for the 2015/16 financial year.

This funding reduction has resulted in a shortfall of £68k within Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

The MEA council is currently assessing how to maintain emergency cover pending a review of emergency planning, members were told.

Each of the three legacy councils had individual emergency plans developed to ensure a response and recovery could be co-ordinated to protect and assist local communities.

Discussions are also ongoing with the Causeway Coast and Glens and Antrim/Newtownabbey authorities to share the financial cost of providing an Emergency Planning Coordination Officer (EPCO), a post which was previously funded through the Emergency Planning Grant.

“The loss of funding has the potential to undermine the excellent work developed over the past the years,” a members’ report read. “Communications with the Head of the NI Civil Service are ongoing, discussions are ongoing with neighbouring Councils and there is a commitment to maintain the EPCO post pending a wider review of Emergency Planning.”

The existing emergency contact arrangements for Emergency Services available in Ballymena are to be maintained and rolled out across the Mid and East Antrim Borough.

Should a call be received from the PSNI or emergency services, the Emergency Contact Officer will firstly notify the Chief Executive, who will liaise with group party leaders and elected members.

Key-holders will also be notified to open identified rest centres in Carrickfergus, Ballymena or Larne as appropriate.