Anyone reading the agenda for todays City of York Council meeting may mistake it for a meeting of a University debating society. Verbose, borderline pompous, motions and amendments dominate the agenda.
As the first face to face meeting of the authority since coronavirus struck, there has been plenty of time to fashion an agenda which talks to the people of the City.
Instead we have are offered the spectacle of Council members essentially having a chat with each other.
The City’s day to day problems may as well be taking place on another planet.
The meeting is, for the first time, being held at the racecourse. Perhaps bookmakers will be on hand to offer odds on anything useful emerging as the race reaches the final furlong at 10:00pm?
Earlier in the week, the Councillor responsible for waste collection held a special meeting to discuss the pressing issue of the release of “Chinese lanterns” in the City. The opportunity to also discuss the backlog in refuse collection was missed.
Yet hundreds of unemptied green bins currently adorn our streets.
Earlier a controversial change in the playground refurbishment programme was agreed at a “behind closed doors” meeting. Emergency “delegation” powers – which allow officers to make decisions without consultation or democratic input – were exploited.
The opposition claim (with some justification) to be outraged by the decision. Have they found a way of holding those responsible to account? Apparently not, judging by tonight’s agenda.
With (rightly or wrongly) COVID restrictions being lifted from Monday, the Councils top priority should now be to end the emergency powers and introduce effective governance arrangements.
In the real world, taxpayers expect basic public standards to be maintained.
It is not just the York Council that is out of touch.
Sad to report that, as of yesterday, the promised work to remove overgrowth obstructions from the A64/Tadcaster Road cycle path had not been completed by Highways/Yorks or the Council.
The lack of action contrasts with the panic decisions taken last spring when roads and car parks were closed in order to allow “social distancing” on paths which were already much wider than those which are currently obstructed.
My top three goals for policing York & Selby District… and how we’re going to achieve them
Meet the new police commander of York & Selby District, Superintendent Mark Khan. As the most senior officer in the district, he makes big decisions that affect how policing is delivered for hundreds of thousands of people. He says:
Last week, I became commander of a district that includes one of the safest cities in England, which is also in the safest county in England. Those aren’t hollow claims, they are facts based on government analysis of a huge amount of crime data.
Facts like that can be very reassuring to people who live or work in this wonderful district. But they don’t mean everything is perfect. We deal with thousands of serious crimes a year in York and Selby. That means thousands of victims, thousands of lives affected by crime.
And they certainly don’t mean we should be complacent as a police force. I’ve been a police officer for almost 30 years – I know that the moment the police stop trying to improve and evolve would be the moment criminals gained the upper hand.
There’s always scope for progress, no matter how effectively things have been done in the past.
So I’m going to share my three top goals for policing the York & Selby District and explain how we’re going to achieve them.
Goal 1. Ensuring public spaces are kept safe for all, day and night
Public spaces are, by definition, for everyone to enjoy. If people who use a town or city centre, park or other communal areas feel intimidated or are at risk of crime, something is wrong. The lawless minority does not have a right to ruin public spaces for the law-abiding majority.
We’ve already made big strides in tackling this and there’s excellent work happening as we speak. We’re using dispersal orders to stamp out antisocial behaviour at key points right now – and we’re backing them up with a strong police presence so people feel safe, however they choose to use public spaces. I want to see that continue for as long as the need exists. Yes, there’s more work to do, and yes, we’ll do it.
As you read this, we’re also doing work with other organisations to prepare for the full reopening of the night-time economy after July 19 and planning how we police high footfall areas with maximum impact. The night-time economy is a big part of our district’s economy and people are welcome to come here to enjoy their leisure time. Millions of people manage to do that legally, safely and respectfully every year. We won’t tolerate those who don’t.
Goal 2. Tackling the harm drugs and alcohol do to our communities
Communities are damaged by crime. Crime is often fuelled by drug or alcohol misuse. So I want to ensure we get to the root cause of this issue. I want to build on the good work with partners like local authorities, the local hospitality sector and the wider community that has seen scores of troublemakers banned from pubs and bars and the tiny minority of rogue businesses that perpetuate this trouble held to account.
But illegal drugs present different challenges. We know that early intervention – getting people the support they need before addiction really takes over – works wonders. I’m keen to see us develop that approach further, to prevent the cycle between drugs and crime taking hold in the first place especially among young people.
Most of the drugs in our district are brought in from other areas. This is often done by ‘county lines’ gangs which also import violence, exploitation, misery and fear. Our excellent Expedite team has led our force’s response to this – hundreds of drug dealers are in prison as a result. We will police York and Selby in a way that makes it a totally hostile environment to everyone involved in this repugnant trade, from low-level street dealers to organised crime ringleaders. I know we will have the full support of our communities.
Goal 3. Keeping our roads, and everyone who uses them, safe
One of the ways we can keep drug gangs and other criminals out of our communities is to intercept them before they even reach their destination. We have skilled teams like our Operational Support Unit and Roads Policing Group who specialise in this. And we’ll be sharing some of their skills with officers from our local policing teams.
But road policing is much more than ridding our routes of criminals. Last year, almost 40 people died on North Yorkshire’s roads and more than 250 were seriously injured. One in six of those serious injuries happened in our district.
Virtually all were due to driver or rider error. It’s a heartbreaking figure but we know we can do something about it. We’ll be bringing more targeted road safety education and enforcement operations to York & Selby District – initiatives like Operation Boundary, which focuses a high volume of police units on key routes and pays particular attention to vulnerable road users such as motorcyclists. And we’ll use the skills, resources and expertise of the York & North Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership to do everything in our power to reduce those harrowing statistics.
Let me be very clear – these are by no means our only priorities and we won’t fixate on these at the expense of the many other issues we deal with.
But I’m fully aware they’re big challenges. We’re setting the bar high.
These sort of goals need a clear plan. So we’re going to focus on maintaining high investigative standards to ensure we put together robust cases that bring people to justice.
What’s more, we’re not just going to respond to crime. We’re going to respond and then aim to fix the problem, to prevent us dealing with the same issues over and over again. Prevention and early intervention is key.
And to solve problems we need to share skills. We’ll share them with other organisations and ensure we recruit and retain people who understand the issues we’re trying to address, represent the communities we serve and have the skills and determination to make positive changes.
I know that’s been a long read, but it’s important we share our ideas and ambitions for York & Selby District with you.
Without public support it would be impossible for us to police. And without the information supplied by the public we’d be working in the dark.
So if you have concerns or information about any offences in York & Selby District, from antisocial behaviour to drink driving to drug dealing, share it with us by calling 101 and selecting option 1. Every report is taken seriously and it helps us build our policing response around the issues affecting our communities.
Together we can make one of the safest places in England an even safer place to live, work and visit. And that’s an exceptional goal we can all share.
Good to see that the nettles which were overgoing the public footpath on Foxwood Lane have been cut back by the Council. The weeds had been reported for attention following an incident when a passing toddler was badly stung.
Cllr Sinmon Daubeney tells us that the next round of weed killing in local gutters will commence on 1st July. It may take around 3 weeks to complete the whole City.
This is useful information for residents to have and could usefully be added to the Councils social media channels along with progress reports on grass cutting, pothole filling, waste collection and other local public services.
The meadow wild flowers that were planted by local residents association volunteers last year are now blooming in the Foxwood Park. They make a useful contribution to the areas pollinator strategy.
We’ve asked the Council to sweep the gutters in Asbourne Way, remove litter for an area in Thoresby Road and fill in a long standing pothole in Ashford Place
We were pleased to see that some public service in the Westfield area have improved over the last 7 days.
The Council have responded promptly to reports of problems with litter and fly tipping.
Most amenity areas have now had a, long overdue, visit from the mower although the length of the cuttings has itself caused a problem. They will look much tidier if they get a scheduled second cut within the next 3 weeks.
Elsewhere, several of the blocked drainage channels on the Chapelfields estate have been cleaned. These were mainly located on the inside of the traffic build outs.
They need to be swept regularly to avoid a build up of detritus and weeds.
The Front Street shopping area was looking tidier yesterday.
We’re still waiting to learn of the results of the survey into the future of the area. An improvement budget of £1/2 million has been promised.
However, it is good to see that the back lane between Front Street and Beaconsfield Street is currently largely free of weeds and litter.
One remaining issue remains the reliability of the waste collection service. The Council says that it has recruited two new drivers and that this should ease the problem in future.
Two fewer patients at the hospitals today. No more deaths
84 positive test results today. Brings the cumulative total up to 13.223
The number of cases in the City has increased from 269 to 305.
The rate /100k population increases to 144.82. Trending to reach 215.1 early next week.
The infection rate in York is now well above the regional and national averages
Only one neighbourhood now with fewer than 3 cases (New Earswick)
NB. These figures date from tests carried out last Sunday. The significantly higher positive test numbers found on Monday and Tuesday are not yet reflected in the trends shown on the graphs
952 vaccinations were completed yesterday
6355 PCR tests were completed during the week ending 20th June 2021
Of these, 4.4% were found to be positive. That represents an increase from the 4.0% found during the previous period). NB. At the peak of the winter wave, positivity hit a high of 18.2% (3/1/21)
2949 “lateral flow” test were also conducted on 24th June 2021
The Council has updated its commentary on open data. It is reproduced below.
The data is accurate as at 8.00 a.m. on Friday 25.06.21. Some narrative for the data covering the latest period is provided here below:
People with Covid Symptoms
• NHS Pathways/111 triages – as at 21.6.21 there had been 101 total covid triages in the CYC area in the last 7 days. The peak number of triages was 653 in the 7 day period to 20.9.20.
• As at 24.6.21, the Covid Symptom App estimates 589 per 100,000 in York with symptomatic covid (responses from a sample of 3,787 people). The peak rate was 1,283 on 7.1.21.
• As at 24.6.21 York has had 13,139 cases since the start of the pandemic, a rate of 6,238 per 100,000 of population. The cumulative rate in York is below the national (7,247) and regional (7,640) averages.
• The PHE ‘Exceedance’ rating compares the no. of new cases over a 14 day period with the previous 6 weeks and provides a RAG rating to indicate if the previously observed trend in the number of new cases is worsening. The latest rating for York (21.6.21) is Red.
• The provisional rate of new Covid cases per 100,000 of population for the period 16.6.21 to 22.6.21 in York is 192.3 (405 cases). (Using data published on Gov.uk on 24.6.21).
• The latest official “validated” rate of new Covid cases per 100,000 of population for the period 13.6.21 to 19.6.21 in York was 127.7 (269 cases). The national and regional averages at this date were 101.5 and 112.7 respectively (using data published on Gov.uk on 24.6.21).
• York is currently ranked 108th out of 149 Upper Tier Local Authorities (UTLAs) in England with a rank of 1 indicating the lowest 7 day rate.
• For the 7 day period 12.6.21.to 18.6.21, the number of cases in each ward varied from 1 to 45 and rates varied from 21.9 to 296.7 per 100,000.
• The rate of new Covid cases per 100,000 of population for the period 13.6.21 to 19.6.21 for people aged 60+ in York was 8.1 (4 cases). The national and regional averages were 17.2 and 17.7 respectively.
• As at 22.6.21, the latest 7 day positivity rate in York (Pillar 2 PCR tests only) was 7.82%. The national and regional averages are 4.9% and 6.6% respectively.
• As at 22.6.21 the latest 7 day positivity rate in York (Pillar 2 Lateral Flow Tests only) was 0.93%. The national and regional averages are 0.5% and 0.6% respectively.
• As at 22.6.21 the latest 7 day positivity rate in York (Pillar 1 tests only) was 0.4%. The national average is 0.6%.
• As at 18.6.21 York University reported 55 individuals within the University community who were currently self-isolating because they have had a positive COVID-19 test. The peak number was 331 on the 19.10.20.
• As at 21.6.21 York St. John reported 7 individuals within the University community who were currently self-isolating because they have had a positive COVID-19 test. The peak number was 82 on the 8.10.20.
• Local Contact Tracing. Between 10.3.21 and 18.6.21, 471 referrals had been actioned by the local contact tracing service. Of the referrals actioned, 442 (93.8%) were successful and 29 (6.2%) were unable to be reached via phone or home visit, but guidance leaflets were posted where possible. (NB on the 10.3.21 the local CYC team became responsible for contacting all cases rather than just those that the national team could not contact).
Cases in Residential Care Settings
• As at 23.6.21 there were 2 care homes in the CYC area with confirmed Covid-19 infection (at least 1 case of either a staff member or resident).
• The latest ‘outbreak’ (2+ cases of either a staff member or resident) in a residential care setting in York was reported by PHE on 24.6.21 (1 home).
Cases amongst School Aged Children
• In the 7 days up to 21.6.21 there were 26 children of primary or secondary school age who tested positive (across 7 different schools).
COVID Bed Occupancy in York Hospital
• As at 22.6.21 there were 6 confirmed Covid-19 patients in General/Acute beds. The previous figure was 4 on 15.6.21. The peak number was 157 on 19.1.21.
• As at 22.6.21 there were 0 confirmed Covid-19 patients and 0 suspected Covid-19 patients in the Intensive Treatment Unit. The previous figures were 0 and 0 on 15.6.21. The peak number for people in ITU was 19 on 10.5.20.
• The ‘R’ value (the number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to, on average) for the North East and Yorkshire area on 18.6.21 was estimated to be in the range 1.0 to 1.3. The previous estimate was (1.0 to 1.2) on 11.6.21.
Variants of Concern
• Published data from Public Health England shows that in York, up to 16.6.21, there had been 171 cases (genomically confirmed or provisional genotyping) of the Delta Variant of Concern (VOC-21APR-02) which was first identified in India. More recent provisional data is available on cases where the test was processed in a laboratory which can identify Variants of Concern. This shows that in the most recent month, 93% of new cases in York were likely to be the Delta Variant.
• As at 23.6.21 a total of 133,510 CYC residents have had the first dose of the vaccine. This represents 76.7% of the estimated adult (18+) population of York.
• As at 22.6.21 a total of 92,574 CYC residents have had both doses of the vaccine. This represents 53.2% of the estimated adult (18+) population of York.
The two sources about deaths from Covid-19 at LA level are ONS data and local registrar data. They are derived from the same source (civil registration data). ONS data is more comprehensive as it includes deaths of York residents which have occurred and been registered outside York. Local registrar data provides a breakdown by age and gender. The most recently available data is summarised below:
• ONS Weekly data: In the most recent period (Week 23: 5.6.21 to 11.6.21) 0 Covid-19 deaths were recorded as having occurred for CYC residents.
• ONS Cumulative data: Since the start of the pandemic, for deaths occurring up to 11th June 2021 and registered up to 19th June 2021, 397 Covid-19 deaths were recorded as having occurred for CYC residents (228 in hospital, 136 in care homes, 25 at home/elsewhere and 8 in a hospice). The number of deaths per 100,000 of population in York is 188.49 which is lower than the national average of 232.76
• Age / Gender breakdown (using registrar data): The average age of the CYC residents who died was 82.1, with an age range of 44-104. The age profile of the CYC residents who have died is older than the national average (79.6% were aged 75+ compared with 72.9% nationally). 47.7% of the CYC residents who died were male. The national average is 54.4%.
Delays in commisioning new football pitches near Sim Balk Lane could delay the occupation of houses at Lowfields. The pitches, part of a Bishopthorpe FC expansion project, were part funded by developer contributions from Lowfields.
The Council at the time argued that the pitches would replace those lost at Lowfields.
One of the conditions attached to the granting of the Lowfields development was that the homes there would not be occupied until the new pitches had been brought into use.
It has now emerged that completion of the Sim Balk Lane scheme is delayed.
Essential work to the adjacent cycle track, – which provides a link to a parking area – has not been started.
The work proposed includes widening and resurfacing of the path down to the underpass, resurfacing of damaged areas, installation of bulkhead lighting to the underside of the underpass and the repainting of the underpass walls. There will apparently also be a a proposal for a “community mural” provided by Sustrans.
The work will require approval by the Council and is unlikely to be completed until late in the year.
The developers say that they have already installed new bins as part of the project which has helped reduce the littering issue in that area.
The planning permission for Lowfields included the following condition.
34 No dwelling within the red line area highlighted on the attached plan (insert plan reference ) shall be occupied until three replacement football pitches of the same size as those on land subject to this planning application, have been created. The three pitches shall be on land ‘To The South East Of 235 Tadcaster Road’, subject planning permission Ref. No. 18/00251/FUL. The completed works shall include all levelling, drainage, ground preparation and grass seeding works Reason:- To ensure that appropriate replacement playing pitch facilities are provided for those lost in association with the development and to secure compliance with paragraphs 73 and 74 of the NPPF.
Application ref 17/02429/OUTM
Separately the Council claimed earlier in the week that all available properties at Lowfields had been reserved by prospective purchasers.
Councillors from all parties represented on the York Council have apparently been holding meetings to discuss future transport policies. It is likely that the deliberations will influence the fourth edition of the upcoming “Local Transport Plan”
There have been tensions between the main groups represented on the Council since Labour “bounced” an anti-car motion though the Council shortly after the last local elections.
The motion sought to ban “inessential journeys” within the “City Walls”. No traffic impact modelling was commissioned before the motion was passed. They have subsequently made no attempt to define what an “inessential journey” is or how any such definition could be enforced.
The motion would mean the reintroduced of restrictions/tolls on the use of Lendal Bridge as well as Ouse Bridge.
Labour’s defeat at the last local elections owed much to their traffic ban on Lendal bridge, with its chief architect – Dave Merrett – losing his Council seat.
Now “behind closed doors” meetings have apparently been taking place in an attempt to find a consensus.
There are concerns that Councillors are being bullied into accepting an extreme transport plan fronted by a small number of members from the York Civic Trust. They have used the cover of a retired University transport lecturer to give their plans credibility.
Liberal Democrat Councillors would be wise to abandon this secretive approach to policy formulation. Something more inclusive is needed.
If history tell us anything, then it is that the residents of York will not tolerate a “we know what’s best for you” attitude from its elected representatives.