Council resumes face-to-face registration services - but warns of backlog

Hackney Town Hall

Hackney Council has resumed face-to-face registration services - but warns of a significant backlog after coronavirus restrictions forced them to close.

When the Government announced lock down measures, it meant that births, marriages, civil partnerships, notice appointments, citizenship ceremonies and other registration services had to be delayed. Under emergency coronavirus legislation, registrations of deaths were able to be carried out over the phone, but all other registrations must still be done face-to-face, something the Mayor of Hackney has called on the Government to review and modernise. 

Earlier this month the government confirmed that some registration services could begin again, provided they were carried out in a covid-safe environment. Staff have been working through emergency cases and the Council has been working hard to make sure staff and residents will be safe when they attend the Hackney Service Centre.

Measures include perspex screens between staff and residents, hand sanitising stations, shorter appointment times where possible and interview rooms are cleaned after each appointment.

Following government guidance released this week, which permits small marriage ceremonies from 4 July, the Council is working to make its ceremony rooms covid-secure. This means that the team is unlikely to be in a position to conduct ceremonies until after July, and are not currently able to offer new bookings, as they work to rebook cancelled ceremonies. 

The team are now working their way through a backlog including registering over 2,000 births. A further 350 couples have sadly been unable to give their intention to marry and 500 ceremonies have had to be cancelled - these will take priority when bookings recommence. 

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.

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. I’ve written to the Home Secretary, calling on the Government to seize this opportunity to introduce more flexible and modern ways of delivering traditional registration methods. 

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.

Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney