Perhaps the actions that have attracted the most criticism during lockdown nationally have been those where politicians and senior officials have been seen to break their own rules. Several have been forced to resign although, at least, one has famously not.
Not surprisingly the words and actions of their local counterparts are also now under increasing scrutiny. Tomorrow some schools will reopen while those that have carried on educating the children of Key Workers can expect an influx of additional pupils. Opinions are mixed about the timing of this move and, indeed, the return of more people to their workplaces.
MPs have returned to Westminster albeit in a “social distancing” respecting way.
So why have the City’s democratic institutions not been revived? Apart from a couple of anaemic virtual Q & A sessions, local leaders seem to have preferred to issue the occasional policy edict.
They have seemed reluctant to submit to scrutiny.
The Councils scrutiny and audit functions – led by opposition Councillors – have been ineffective for many years, with participants trying to score political points while exploring their own self interest obsessions.
Never has there been a greater need for challenge than now when residents have so many real concerns about what has happened and what might happen if a second wave of COVID infections hits the City. Other areas are already making preparations
It seems extraordinary that City bosses can order teachers and children back to the classroom while they themselves hide behind the safety of virtual reality meetings. While the need for full scale Council meetings may be small at the present time, there is an urgent requirement for all decisions to be preceded with good quality, informed reports. Residents should be able to hear the arguments for and against controversial decisions like the Bishopthorpe Road contraflow cycle lane.
Some Council services have actually improved during lockdown.
Street cleaning standards are high and pothole reports are being dealt with more quickly. This, though, has tended to highlight the awful state of many carriageways and paths – in itself the most likely reason (together with path obstructions) why many, who have taken up walking and cycling in their leisure times, may now return to their cars.
There has also been an increase in the number of long term empty Council houses with some homes having become dumping grounds. The repair and re-letting service needs to get into gear. They can follow the lead of those estate agents who have successfully adapted to incorporate social distancing into their processes.
Whether some Councillors actually “get this” is unclear. They recently publish a letter saying that they estimated “that there would be over 700 (coronavirus) deaths in the City by October”.
So far there have been 126 deaths at York hospital, with a similar total in the local community.
If another 500 deaths are expected, why on earth are we relaxing the lockdown?