Each week the York Council updates a list of upcoming “decisions” that it intends to make. It is known as the forward programme and covers a four month period. It lists issue areas and gives the date that a decision meeting will take place on.
The intention is to give back bench councillors and members of the public advance notice that changes may be proposed.
The system has always been slightly opaque with some quite obscure descriptions covering potentially radical change. Nevertheless, the system works after a fashion and was sustained during the peak of the COVID crisis.
During that time decisions were delegated to officials on the basis that they needed to act promptly to address health concerns.
The York Council has been slow to get back to a fully transparent and democratic decision-making process, with meetings still taking place “online”.
Many may think that this is not a bad thing as far as what are termed “executive member decision meetings” are concerned. Essentially this involves one person siting in a room solemnly declaring agreement with often mundane officer recommendations. Provided that written representations are allowed and recorded, remote meetings of this sort have the advantage of avoiding unnecessary travel (and can be viewed live on video by interested parties).
The Councils planning and scrutiny processes are rather different.
There some real debate and probing is necessary to ensure that all options are fully understood and considered. Other Councils have returned to “live” meetings. York should follow suit.
It could start by scheduling its first full Council meeting for 6 months.
The latest “forward plan” suggests that a backlog of work is building up. No fewer than 7 items which have been included on the plan – in some cases for over 6 months – are now shelved.
There is no indication when, or even if, decisions will be made.
They include a review of Homelessness, the agenda for which was published last week and then hastily withdrawn without explanation.
Another report was intended to provide an update on the commercial arrangements at the new Community Stadium complex. There is no clue given as to when a report will be ready despite the start of the new football season being imminent.
Several of the deferred items relate to housing issues. A new Head of Housing has recently been appointed. He will need to get to grips quickly with the backlog.
In the meantime the Council should either schedule the shelved meetings or withdraw them for the list
The deferred items include
- 25. Homeless Review 2019-20 Decision maker: Executive Member for Housing & Safer Neighbourhoods Decision due: ; The original meeting this item was scheduled to be considered at has been cancelled, therefore this item has been postponed until a new meeting date has been identified. Originally due: 25/08/20 Notice of proposed decision first published: 28/07/2020
- 26. Make it York Service Level Agreement Decision maker: Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Communities Decision due: ; In consultation with the Executive Member for Economy and Strategic Planning Originally due: 14/04/20 Notice of proposed decision first published: 24/02/2020
- 27. Project Executive Fee Level Decision maker: Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education Originally due: 21/04/20 Notice of proposed decision first published: 02/03/2020
- 28. NSLC Commercial proposals (Community Stadium) Decision maker: Executive Decision due: ; This item has been deferred to enable a more detailed report to be prepared. Originally due: 13/02/20 Notice of proposed decision first published: 13/01/2020
- 29. Organisational Development (OD) Plan Decision maker: Executive Originally due: 23/04/20 Notice of proposed decision first published: 16/03/2020
- 30. Garden Assistance for CYC Tenants Decision maker: Executive Member for Housing & Safer Neighbourhoods Originally due: 30/04/20 Notice of proposed decision first published: 03/02/2020
- 31. Communal Areas Policy (Housing Owned Land) Decision maker: Executive Member for Housing & Safer Neighbourhoods Originally due: 14/05/20 Notice of proposed decision first published: 03/02/2020