Coronavirus York updates; 17th October 2020

Deaths and test results

TWO additional COVID related deaths reported at the York Hospital Trust, That makes 6 in the last week.

81 (EIGHTY ONE) new positive test results were announced today bringing the cumulative total to 2555.

The peak cases (per 100k population) reached a new high of 279.19 on Monday although there may be the first signs emerging that the rate of increase has stabilised since then. Too soon to be sure though.

Regrettably, for the second day in a row, the government has failed to publish case level numbers at neighbourhood (MSOA) level. Given that this is the first day of the new Tier 2 restrictions in the City, we think that the government should be publishing more – not less – background information.

Government warning on ill judged transport schemes

The government has issued a warning to councils about squandering the money made available from the Emergency Active Travel Fund. It will be reported to a meeting next week.

… a significant minority of instances where schemes were, frankly,
nowhere near good enough

A notable number of councils used their funding poorly and were simply out of step with the needs of their local communities. I saw or heard from the public and parliamentary colleagues about far too many instances where temporary cycle lanes were unused due to their location and design, while their creation left motor traffic backed up alongside them; of wide pavements causing unnecessary congestion in town centres; and other issues that many have, rightly, reacted angrily too. Government Minister

Vitamin supplements

One aspect of the COVID pandemic which intrigued many people was the fall in infection rates during the summer period. While this might partly be the result of people not mixing so much indoors, some heath workers are pointing to the impact that vitamin D can have on resilience.

Sunshine is the principle source of vitamin D for many people. People get less exposure to sunlight between October and April.

The respected “Which” magazine concluded recently that, while there was little evidence that the consumption of vitamin supplements prevented coronavirus infections, generally balanced vitamin supplements did help the immune system.

We think that there is a case for the Council making vitamin supplements available free of charge to vulnerable groups including those making use of food banks.

The York Council is expecting to get an additional £600,000 in support payments from the government as a consequence of moving into Tier 2 restrictions

Community Stadium further delays

The York Council has confirmed that the new LNER Community Stadium will not now be completed until 2021. The latest problems, for the jinx hit project, apparently relate to drainage. Remedial works will take several weeks to complete.

At one level this makes little difference, as spectators are not allowed into sports events at present. It might, however, prevent York City switching their (behind closed doors) matches to the new stadium pitch which, in turn, could delay their leaving Bootham Crescent.

The start of the Rugby League season is also creeping closer while tickets for the Rugby World Cup games – now less than a year away – are already on sale.

A further threat to the project is now emerging.

The complex operator GLL – who also run the Council’s Energise sports centre in Cornlands Road – have said that the COVID restrictions have impacted on their finances. The suggestion is that this will mean job losses and possibly the permanent closure of some facilities. GLL are a social enterprise company with operations across most of the country.

The sports centre and pool at Monk Cross – although completed several weeks ago – have yet to open.

With the cinema also now closed, units like the NHS centre and library locked up and “no takers” for the restaurant units, the whole business plan for the complex now looks increasingly shaky.

Wrong time, wrong priority

Can a Group of Policy Experts Prevent an Election Catastrophe in 2020? –  Mother Jones

We have made no secret on our distaste for the “mayoral” style of local government systems. They put enormous amounts of power in the hands of one person. That looked wrong even in at best of times.

Now the governments apparent determination to move ahead quickly with another reorganisation of Local Government in York and North Yorkshire, in the middle of a pandemic, looks to be at the extreme end of irresponsible.

Local government Leaders should be able to devote all of their energises and resources to addressing the health crisis.

Some already look exhausted by the pressures of the crisis.

Reorganisation is an unnecessary distraction which the government should shelve at least until the pandemic, and the outfall from BREXIT, are behind us.

Against that background the York Council and North Yorkshire County Council have prepared a policy proposal which would see the City’s boundaries left as they are. York would still have a – ceremonial – Lord Mayor and local electors would get what they voted for (rather than what their counterparts in Scarborough thought that they should have).

The Council have issued the following statement prior to an Executive discussion next week. The Executive paper is published here: https://democracy.york.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=12298&x=1

“Council confirms there is no functional, historical or logical reason for merging York

Devolution for York and North Yorkshire and Unitarisation for North Yorkshire

structures and so, unlock the devolution process, City of York Council today (16 October) proposed there is no functional, historical or logical reason to merge York with surrounding rural and coastal areas.

In a report to the Executive, it is proposed that York’s footprint should remain the same, to retain local decision making in York, focus on recovery efforts, avoid significant disruption and cost, and continue to deliver value for money services to residents, businesses and communities. 

If agreed, Executive will refer to Full Council on 29 October to decide whether to provide a submission to government that demonstrates York should remain on the existing footprint by providing evidence that there is no functional, historical or logical reason to merge York with other local authorities.

To reduce the 2-tier county and district structures in North Yorkshire, there are only two options being put forward.  The first, the council’s preferred option, would mean York remains on its existing footprint and North Yorkshire creates a new single council, serving the whole of North Yorkshire and based on its recognised geography and identity. This would bring together the eight councils currently providing public services there. The second, proposed by the district authorities, is an east/west split that would see York merge with Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby, covering a geography that would stretch 65 miles north/south, and 45 miles east/west.

To achieve greater efficiencies between City of York Council and North Yorkshire County Council, a Strategic Partnership agreement has been created, which describes how seizing opportunities to share resources or lead different aspects of service delivery, whilst respecting the differences between the two places, will better support the region.

There are several benefits of York remaining as a unitary on its existing footprint:

  • The speed at which devolution maybe achieved
  • The continuity of services at a time critical for Covid recovery
  • The continued identify of the City

However, should any change be made to City of York’s existing footprint, there will be a series of detrimental impacts, including

  • an anticipated £117 increase for Band D taxpayers in York (representing an 8% increase).
  • disruption to services across York and the districts during this crucial recovery period
  • end of the 800 year connection between the city and the council, impacting on the very identity of the city.

Over the past few months, consultation has taken place with local residents, businesses and communities regarding devolution and unitarisation, which has been used to feed into the analysis of proposals included in the report.  As part of Our Big Conversation, residents have been sending their views on the topic, with 65% of residents believing council services won’t be improved by covering a larger area.  As part of the consultation, the Council has also held two devolution focused Facebook Live Q&A’s, and has set up numerous briefing sessions with local businesses, charitable and voluntary groups, and local civic organisations.

The council has not been consulted on the east/west proposal and therefore does not know the detail.  As a result it is not possible to accurately assess the impact. 

York has a strong case for remaining the same:

  • t is a median-sized unitary authority with the 7th lowest level of council tax of any unitary.
  • It’s geography (compact urban and sub-urban) is distinctly different to it’s surrounding area (rural and coastal)
  • It has maintained financial stability since it was formed in 1996.
  • It supports a successful, sustainable city, recognised as one of the best places to live in the UK, with world renowned universities and an education system amongst the best in the country.
York responds to the criteria set by central government

To support Executive make an informed decision, the council has summarised evidence for its case to continue on its existing footprint against the criteria provided by government”. 

Lincoln Court independent living apartments completed

A development of 35 apartments on Ascot Way has now officially been completed by the council. It offers older residents “high-quality apartments where they can live independently and well”.

Nominations invited for new Lincoln Court apartments

Opening Lincoln Court is the latest phase of City of York Council’s Older Persons Accommodation Programme and the apartments are available for new and returning tenants. The council will be operating a local lettings system which will enable tenants in the west of the city to downsize into these bright modern homes.

The £3.4 million project offers 15 new build and 20 completely refurbished one-bedroomed apartments.

All the generously-sized homes are available for social rent by eligible people aged 60 and over or who have a specific need for this type of accommodation. This is the council’s first independent living community extension designed specifically to meet the needs of wheelchair users.

The development has a large communal lounge, meeting rooms and a salon which people living in or outside the scheme can use, and it has a communal kitchen where residents can prepare meals and enjoy them in company if they choose. A new guest suite for visiting family and friends of tenants will help maintain family links. All of these facilities will be available along with a range of social activities once restrictions on their use and socialising in groups are lifted.

Facilities include two on-site laundries and a buggy store, there is a good choice of shops, cafes, health facilities and parks nearby. Lincoln Court’s newly landscaped gardens are next to the open spaces of historic Hob Moor nature reserve which is overlooked by the new balconies on the first and second floors.

The apartments can be bid for via North Yorkshire Home Choice at www.northyorkshirehomechoice.org.uk/.

You can find out more about independent living with City of York Council at www.york.gov.uk/IndependentLiving

Please contact one of our friendly advisers for more information by email at ILCextracare@york.gov.uk or phone at 01904 554095. 
 

Coronvirus York updates; 15th October 2020

Deaths and test results

Another York Hospital Trust death was announced today

There were 71 (SEVENTY ONE) additional positive test results announced today. This brings the total to 2399. 1424 of these have occurred since the start of the second wave of infections on 1st September.

The highest rate per 100,000 head of population happened on Monday when the figure reached 274.44

The worst affected neighbourhood is Heslington/University which has had 119 positive test results during the last 7 days.

The least affected area has been Bishopthorpe/Copmanthorpe with 7 cases.

The government has published updated test and trace stats covering the period between 30th September and 7th October. Nearly 1 in 5 of the people who were tested in York were found to have the virus. The positivity rate is continuing to increase.

The government claims that it has traced 67% of contacts in the City since test & trace started in May. The York Council has announced plans to set up its own contact tracing service. It is expected to be operational next week.

York subject to Tier 2 restrictions

The City is to be added to the areas with “Tier 2” restrictions. Given the recent increase in case numbers in parts of the City, the decision is not unexpected.

The restrictions are effective from 00:01 this Saturday morning

Tier 2 restrictions will mean

  • All businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a Covid-secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law, such as nightclubs and adult entertainment venues
  • Certain businesses selling food or drink on their premises are required to close between 10pm and 5am. Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-thru
  • Schools, universities and places of worship remain open
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees
  • Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place, provided the Rule of Six is followed
  • The “Rule of Six” will continue to apply outdoors and in private gardens
  • People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
  • People should aim to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible. If they need to travel, they should walk or cycle where possible, or to plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport

Some may feel that the move comes too late and should include further restrictions on travel, the closure of more leisure venues, schools returning to the arrangements seen in the Spring with other educational facilities being quarantined.

York Council coalition majority down to one

York Green Party launch Local Shops For Local People directory | York Press
Cllr Taylor

The LibDem/Green coalition which currently runs the York Council has had its majority reduced to one, following the resignation from the Green Party of controversial Councillor Dave Taylor.

Cllr Taylor, a former Lord Mayor, attracted a lot of criticism following disparaging comments that he made about football icon Jack Charlton.

Cllr Tayler has circulated a letter giving the reasons for his departure from the Green Party.

Before I resign from the Green Party I would like to pay tribute to Andy D’Agorne who has been my friend and mentor as a Councillor in Fishergate. I hope he will, at least, remain my friend as we continue to serve the residents of Fishergate.

However, I have decided to leave the Green Party after its miserable and disappointing decision to suspend me over the Charlton comment. Might I suggest that the next time you see a friend being given a kicking by a bunch of football hooligans that you give them your aid rather than cravenly join in with the thugs giving them a kicking.

But political parties are not our friends… any more than are our employers. A lesson has been learned.

I would like to thank the members who contacted me with messages of support, and those critical of the party’s decision to suspend me. That meant a lot to me, but there are some other relationships within York Green Party which are now irretrievably broken and so I must tender my resignation. I bid the party farewell and offer you all my best wishes in pursuing environmental and social justice.

Yours sincerely,

Dave Taylor
Councillor for Fishergate

It is understood that Cllr Taylor will continue to represent the Fishergate ward as an Independent for the remainder of his term of office.

Christmas cancelled

Well the Christmas Fair anyway

The 10 Ultimate Christmas Gifs We Can All Relate To | GRB

The Council has issued a statment saying that York residents “are being invited to celebrate and commemorate key moments in the Autumn calendar safely, in order to protect the health of the people and places we love”.

Following the announcement that York has been added to the ‘medium’ level on the Government’s three-tiered public health restriction system, and with Covid-19 infection rates in the city rising above the national average, York could still be moved into the tier 2 of the restriction system by the Government. Therefore, this year’s city-wide celebrations will see York celebrate differently to follow public health guidelines and protect each other.

To  give clarity about which events are safe to go ahead, new criteria has been developed to support the Public Health recommendations, with the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) making decisions on mitigation or restriction measures required for public events and activities to take place.

By working closely with partners to explore different options that would ensure the safety of residents, the Council, Public Health, businesses and the Safety Advisory Group are keen that as much of city life continues as possible, with safety measures in place.

Following the latest public health guidelines, events that draw significant numbers of people to a single location and at set times will unfortunately not be permitted to take place, in order to curb the spread of the virus and ultimately, protect local residents. However, events that are outdoors, spread across a larger area and encourage people to visit at different times, rather than for set performances, are more likely to be supported by the Safety Advisory Group.

What this means for city wide celebrations

  • Light and Dark – the Light and Dark experience and Indie York’s Magical Medieval Trails will go ahead as planned during October half term, as this experience has been designed to encourage family groups to move safely around the city.
  • Halloween – Trick or treating guidance will be available from the government and we will share it when published. For now, you should plan events within households or bubbles only.
  • Bonfire Night – SAG have confirmed the event planned for Elvington Air Field will go ahead, as it is a drive through event only. Residents are advised to keep to the rule of six and maintain a safe distance if outside.
  • Hanukkah – central government will be providing advice, for now you should plan events within the rule of six, or with households or bubbles only. Consider outdoor celebrations where you can.
  • Diwali – central government will be providing advice, for now you should plan events within the rule of six, or with households or bubbles only. Consider outdoor celebrations where you can.
  • Remembrance Day – to avoid people gathering for prolonged periods of time, the parades, including in the city centre, will not take place. Partners, including civic leaders, are working closely together to deliver an appropriate remembrance service, in partnership with York Minster. This will include an online service and reflection with everyone invited to take part. More information will follow soon.
  • Christmas Market / St Nicholas Fair – following other cities (such as Lincoln, Bath and Leeds) and new public health guidance, the Christmas Market will not go ahead. As we look after each other and continue to keep the people we love safe, this Christmas, all York residents will be invited to a special Christmas experience, with more information to follow. This will include new pop up spaces, York’s Christmas lights (which are currently being installed) and opportunities to support a range of local businesses, including small and independent traders.

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, businesses across York have innovated and adapted to remain safe and welcoming for residents and visitors, but the threat of Coronavirus remains, so we all need to continue to work together to protect our health, our economy and our city. We will continue to work with partners to shine a light on our incredible independent retailers, hospitality businesses and attractions who have played their role in keeping our city safe.

Oliver Cromwell - King Charles Storms House Of Commons on Make a GIF
The last person to cancel Christmas was Oliver Cromwell

Frequently Asked Questions

Misuse of family member’s blue badge prosecuted

An investigation carried out by City of York Council has uncovered and successfully prosecuted a case of disabled blue badge fraud.

Andrew Nichol, aged 61 of Stonegate Court, York, was caught misusing a family member’s blue badge in the city centre earlier this year. An investigation into the misuse was conducted by Veritau, the council’s fraud investigation service, following information from a parking officer.

Blue badges make it easier for people with disabilities to travel and maintain independence. However, they are open to abuse. Under the regulations, a blue badge can only be used when the badge holder is present, or being picked up or dropped off.

On 21 February the blue badge was spotted by a council parking officer, displayed in a parked vehicle on Duncombe Place. The badge’s details were checked by the fraud team and the badge holder’s location could not be verified.

When Mr Nichol returned to the vehicle, he told the parking officer that the badge holder was at his home and he was going to pick them up. Investigators later found that the owner of the blue badge was not waiting to be picked up by the driver.
Mr Nichol was asked to participate in a written interview under caution but failed to respond. The investigation concluded with him being prosecuted under the Road Traffic Act 1984 for wrongful use of a disabled person’s badge.

No plea was entered and Mr Nichol failed to attend court, but the case was heard in his absence at York Magistrates’ Court on 9 October 2020. He was found guilty and received a fine, plus court costs and a victim surcharge, totalling £1,169.

“Act in haste, repent at leisure” time for York Council transport changes

Cycling numbers decline in York

It looks like more of the road restrictions introduced in the summer, as part of the Councils reaction to the COVID crisis, will be dropped.

The most criticised restriction – closure of Bishopthorpe Road –  was scrapped a couple of months ago, although officials are now threatening to revive the idea as part of “a review of the Local Transport Plan”.

A report to a meeting taking place next week provides an insight into how travel habits have changed in the City since COVID struck.

The most recent monitoring data, for September, shows that AM peak traffic volumes are around 80% of pre-lockdown, with the PM peak around 85% of pre-lockdown levels. Between the peaks, and at weekends, vehicle trips are down by around 5-10%. Bus use is 50-60% of pre-lockdown levels.

There is some bad news for the cycling lobby.

“Cycling levels appear to have fallen by around 30% in the peaks, whilst interpeak levels are not changed in comparison to the same period last year. It is likely that fewer people are commuting to and from work by bike or cycling to the railway station for onward travel by train, offset by higher levels of exercise/ leisure cycling”.

The report pointedly fails to comment on pollution and air quality levels in the City. These continue to be at record low levels (so probably don’t suit a doom and gloom narrative).

click to access

Several of the “emergency” schemes involved little more than putting out more traffic cones. Those in the Marygate and Monk Bar car park were largely unnecessary. The £10,000 a month taxi shuttle service for disabled people from the latter continues to run although it is little used. Most of the 40 parking spaces lost at Marygate are set to be restored as part of a new scheme to install a permanent cycle path link to Bootham.

Of the others, the report recommends

  • The temporary one way restriction on Coppergate is extended
  • The temporary cycle lane at Castle Mills Bridge on Tower Street is removed (only 3% of users are cyclists and there is an alternative, off road, route along the riverside)
  • The proposed scheme for improvements to York’s North – South cycle route is taken forward to implementation, with a proposed restriction on Navigation Road
  • The proposed scheme for improvements to cycle lanes on Bootham is taken forward to implementation, with a consultation commenced on the rest of the Shipton Road cycle lane scheme, including the element which would require changes to residents’ parking on parts of Bootham.
North – South cycle route

The Council has not heard whether its plea for funding a further tranche of works will be approved. These include the very expensive, but desirable, cycle bridge over the river and railway on the A1237 as well as some more eccentric ideas (a cycle path for Dunnington to the City centre).  

Despite the lack of obvious government enthusiasm for the Councils plans, the authority intends to spend £40,000 on further development of the ideas.

As we have said many times, one of the main criticisms of the Councils transport polices over the last 12 months has been its total insensitivity to the state of repair of the existing infrastructure.

Infrastructure is decaying

That is particularly true of cycle paths many of which are obstructed by potholes, weeds, and hedges. White lines have worn away, signage has faded and, in some cases, disappeared altogether.

It is that neglect that is limiting the expansion of walking and cycling numbers in the City.

Capital expenditure (funded by borrowing) is limited to providing or improving assets with an extended lifespan. Resurfacing existing paths could fall within that definition.

The suspicion is that the executive Councillors favour high profile vanity projects simply because they provide an opportunity for a good “Photo Op”.

The reduction in the numbers cycling is one symptom of poor prioritisation

Acomb Front Street store set to close?

It looks like the popular Peacocks store on Front Street will shortly be closing.

Peacocks is part of a group which includes The Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Jaeger. It was reported last week that the group was in financial difficulties.

So far, shops in the Front Street area have generally managed to survive quite well the pandemic restrictions, with one long term empty property, near Morrisons, set to reopen shortly.

There was, however, some criticism of the authorities when it was revealed recently that a consultant, appointed to report on the remodelling and future marketing of the area nearly 12 months ago, had not yet started work.

A suggestion that, for one or two days each week, the pedestrian restrictions should be eased to allow vehicular access for disabled shoppers, was also ignored.