Hackney Council has begun working its way through birth, marriage, civil partnership and other registrations as face-to-face services resume.
The 350 couples unable to give their intention to marry and 500 cancelled ceremonies will be taking priority as the council warns of a “significant backlog” in its services.
Births, marriages, civil partnerships, notice appointments, citizenship ceremonies and others all had to be delayed when lockdown began, with only the registration of deaths still able to be carried out over the phone, something which Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville has called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to modernise.
Glanville said: “Our registrars provide incredibly important services at key moments in our lives. When the government told us we had to stop providing some services due to the impact of coronavirus restrictions, we knew it would have a significant knock-on effect – demand for these services we all take for granted never stops, even during a global pandemic.
“Our staff have done an incredible job during very difficult circumstances, registering deaths over the telephone and supporting residents coping with the loss of a loved one.
“They’ve also been dealing with emergency appointments where possible, and now that face-to-face appointments can resume, they’re working through a backlog of over 2,000 births, all of which must be registered face-to-face by law.
“In the meantime it is essential that we work in a way that is safe for both our staff and residents. As soon as we are able to do so safely, we will be able to offer marriage and civil partnership registrations, as well citizenship ceremonies, but in the meantime we need to ask people to be understanding of the huge task we face and to be patient, to allow our staff to get on with this important work.”
Registration services are allowed to take place in a ‘covid-safe’ environment, with perspex screens put in place between staff and residents, along with hand sanitising stations, shorter appointments where possible and interview rooms cleaned down after visits.
Small marriage ceremonies will be permitted from 4 July, with the Town Hall making its ceremony rooms covid-secure. Ceremonies at Hackney Town Hall are “unlikely” to be able to take place until after July, with the council currently unable to offer new bookings as cancelled ceremonies are rebooked.
A spokesperson added: “Residents are asked to check the council’s website for updates rather than calling or emailing the registrars.
“While we understand that people are keen to know when their appointment or ceremony might be, responding takes staff away from registration duties.
“Our website is being updated regularly, so please check the relevant pages, and please be patient – we will be in touch as soon as possible.”