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Missing performance stats

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The Leader of the York Council’s Liberal Democrat Group (Keith Aspden) has issued a statement asking the government to delegate funding for the Coronavirus Track and Trace (T & T) activities to the authority.

He says that;

“York has seen the highest percentage of contacts traced and completed (68 per cent) across the Yorkshire and Humber region, this highlights the extent of the amount of people failing to be contacted”.

That will come as news to most residents. The Council publishes no volume or success measures on T & T on its open data web site.

Currently we are seeing only 3 or 4 positive pillar 1 and 2 test results in the City each week. Following up contacts from such a small group should not be too demanding. As with many other issues, the fundamental flaw in York is a lack of openness.

Cllr Keith Aspden has been asked to add his voice to demands for more local information to be published.

He has not replied to a request for at least the following local information to be published

  1. The number of beds at York hospital occupied by Coronavirus patients
  2. The number of ICU beds at York hospital occupied by Coronavirus patients
  3. The number of tests (pillar 1 and 2) carried out (the positive result figure is published)
  4. The number and results of any anti body tests carried out in the City.

To this can now be added the number and proportion of successful traces completed following a positive test result.

Transparency

We raised the issue a few weeks ago of missing public service quality statistics. Many were available through the “open data” web site but recently updates there have been slow to appear (even for pre Pandemic information).

One performance area that was out of date was the number of fines (FPNs) issued for littering offences. The outturn figure for last (financial) year is now available, Three penalty notices were issue, half the number issued the previous year.

There is some good news with the number of street lighting issues reported having fallen for the third successive year (the Council has invested heavily in new street lighting columns)

But figures for transportation matters are mainly still at least a year out of date. The are no figures published for the number of journeys completed by different transport modes. Only bus service use (stable) and, separately, Park and Ride passenger numbers (down), have been added.

These are mainly figures for the period before lock-down and are important if the economic recovery is to be monitored.

The Council has failed to produce KPIs on air quality or carbon emission levels.

Coronavirus York updates; 7th August 2020

Deaths and test results

No additional hospital deaths announced in York today. However, deaths in hospitals elsewhere in Yorkshire & the North East were higher than in other parts of the country.

There have been no additional positive test results in York today. We are currently experiencing about 3 new cases each week.

The latest figures released by the government today suggest that 0.05% of these tested in the community in Yorkshire and Humberside recorded positive results. New infection rates dropped during June but increased again towards the end of July.

Council commentary

The Council has updated its commentary on the pandemic on the open data web site. They say

DIAGNOSED CASES (Pillar 1 and 2 combined)

• As at 6.8.20 York has had 928 cases, a rate of 440.6 per 100,000 of population. The England rate is 472.3. The Yorkshire & Humber rate is 594.6. The most recent cases in York had a test specimen date of 3.8.20 (2 cases).

• 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 no. of new cases is worsening. The latest rating for York (4.8.20) is Amber. The rating was triggered by a higher than ‘expected’ number of cases per 100 tests once in the last 14 days (3 cases with a specimen date of 25.7.20). We know that in recent weeks the number of cases have been low in York which has an effect on the thresholds used to determine the RAG rating – a small change can mean the difference between a red, amber and green rating. The exceedance report should not be considered in isolation but in context alongside other factors such as the recent total number of cases, COVID related deaths, outbreaks as well as changes in the local testing regime and local hotspot analysis.

• The latest weekly National Covid-19 Surveillance Report released on 31.7.20 and covering the week up to 26.7.20, showed that the 7 day rate of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population tested under Pillar 1 and 2 was 4.29 for York. York was ranked 73rd out of 150 local authorities (with 1 being the lowest rate).

• The latest confirmed 7 day rate of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population for York is 2.85. This is for the 7 day period up to 31.7.20. This excludes cases with a sample date in the last few days due to partial data and lags in reporting. The national average is 8.8 and the regional average is 15.7.

• As at 4.8.20, the latest 7 day positivity rate in York (Pillar 2 only) was 0.33% (5 positives out of 1,528 tests). The positivity rate in York is lower than national (1.2%) and regional (1.8%) averages.

Deaths

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 is useful as it provides a breakdown by age and gender. The most recently available data is summarised below:

• ONS weekly data: For deaths occurring up to 24th July 2020 and registered up to 1st August 2020, 169 deaths were recorded as having occurred for CYC residents (82 in hospital, 74 in care homes, 9 at home, 3 in a hospice and 1 in an ‘other communal establishment’). The number of deaths per 100,000 of population in York is 80.24 which is lower than the national average of 87.08

• ‘Excess’ deaths (ONS). In week 30 (18 July to 24 July), 20 deaths occurred in York, which is 11 fewer than the average weekly number for 2014-18. The peak week for ‘excess’ deaths and for Covid deaths was week18 (25 April to 1 May).

• Local Registrar data: In the weekly data received on 3.8.20 (for deaths occurring up to 29.7.20), a cumulative total of 161 deaths of CYC residents where COVID-19 was mentioned (confirmed or suspected) on the death certificate, have been registered. The average age of the people who died was 82.4, with an age range of 53-104. The age profile of those dying in York is slightly older than the national average. 85 of the 161 were male (52.8%), slightly less than the national average (55%). 81 of the deaths occurred in hospital and 80 were community deaths (e.g. at home or in a care home or hospice). 69 people (42.9%) died in nursing /care homes (the national average is 29.6%). In addition 13 people (8.1%) who normally resided in nursing/care homes in the CYC area, died in hospital.

Data on deaths occurring in hospital are shown below. Deaths are initially reported for York NHS Foundation Trust which includes Scarborough Hospital and the further breakdown by site can be delayed. From local registrar data, 58.5% of COVID-19 deaths occurring at York Hospital have been CYC residents. (NB NHS Trusts record deaths following a positive covid-19 test whereas ONS record deaths where covid-19 in mentioned on the death certificate so the totals are not the same).

• Deaths at York Hospital: As at 6.8.20, 134 deaths of people who had tested positive for COVID-19 and were being cared for at York Hospital have been reported. 214 deaths have been reported by the wider York NHS Trust.

Call for parking App info to be updated

We have called on the Council and its RingGo partner to provide parking space availability information on their parking app.

The information is provided by RingGo for car parks in other towns and cities.

New freephone line for those in mental distress

NHS Tees, Esk Wear and Valley have introduced a new freephone line which will make it easier for people in mental distress to access urgent help.

People in York, including children and older people, can contact their local TEWV crisis service on freephone number : 0800 0516171.

Following the success of the Trust’s single point of access telephone number launched earlier in the year, and in response to national guidance, the freephone line will help reduce barriers to accessing help in a mental health emergency.

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, callers, including those with learning disabilities and/or autism, will be offered a series of options which will divert them to their local crisis service. People calling the existing single point of access number will automatically be diverted to the freephone line with a view to this replacing the 0300 number in the coming months.

For more information visit: https://www.tewv.nhs.uk/freephone-line-for-those-in-mental-distress/

Additional facemask requirements from tomorrow (Saturday)

In addition to existing locations facemasks will be required at

  • Auction Houses
  • Bingo Halls
  • Cinemas
  • Community Centres
  • Concert Halls
  • Funeral Directors
  • Indoor Entertainment Venues (amusement Arcades, Funfairs, Adventure Activities E.g. Laser Quest, Go-karting, Escape Rooms, Heritage Sites Etc)
  • Libraries and Public Reading Rooms
  • Massage Centres
  • Museums, Galleries, Aquariums, Indoor Zoos or Visitor Farms, or Other Indoor Tourist, Heritage or Cultural Sites
  • Nail, Beauty, Hair Salons and Barbers – Other Than Where Necessary to Remove for Treatments
  • Place of Worship
  • Premises Providing Professional, Legal or Financial Services
  • Public Areas in Hotels and Hostels
  • Social Clubs
  • Storage and Distribution Facilities
  • Tattoo and Piercing Parlours
  • Theatres
  • Veterinary Services

Job Retention Bonus

The government is introducing a new Job Retention Bonus to provide additional support to employers who keep on their furloughed employees in meaningful employment, after the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends on 31 October 2020.

Government have so far released an overview of the eligibility requirements and what employers need to do now to claim the bonus. Full guidance will be published by the end of September.

Find out more here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/job-retention-bonus/job-retention-bonus

Government Plan for Jobs from 1 August

The Chancellor’s Plan for Jobs announcement in July included a range of incentives that are available to employers recruiting apprentices, including those that have previously been made redundant. Incentives include:

a new payment of £2,000 to employers in England for each new apprentice employers hire, aged under 25, and a £1,500 payment for each new apprentice they hire aged 25 and over, from 1st August 2020 to 31st January 2021, for new recruits. These payments are in addition to the existing £1,000 payment for new 16-18 year-old apprentices, and those aged under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan. an additional £111 million this year for traineeships in England, to triple participation in traineeships. Government will fund employers who provide trainees with work experience at a rate of £1,000 per trainee and expand eligibility for traineeships to those with Level 3 qualifications and below. an additional £32 million funding over the next two years for the National Careers Service so that 269,000 more people in England can receive personalised advice on training and work. A Job Retention Bonus – a one-off payment of £1,000 to UK employers for every furloughed employee who remains continuously employed through to the end of January 2021.

Incentives payments can be claimed by employers from September and will be paid in January 2021. Find out more by visiting: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/rishis-plan-for-jobs-will-help-britain-bounce-back

Risks, delays & cost increases as York Council struggles to manage its commercial portfolio

York Guildhall

Yesterday’s announcement that more than £15 million of infrastructure schemes had been secured in North Yorkshire over the next 18 months – with £300,000 of funding going towards the York Guildhall offices project – will have been welcomed by many.

The money comes from the Government’s “Getting Building Fund” which “aims to boost economic recovery from Covid-19”.

According to a Council spokesman, the funding will now be used “for internal fit-out works” on the business club which will occupy much of the building.

That will come as a surprise to those who thought that the agreed £20.18 million budget included all costs.  Indeed, the option approved by the Council in February 2019, specifically identified £300,000 for “fixtures, fittings and furniture”.

Council report 2019. Option 1 was agreed

It seems that the only change is that this expenditure will now be funded from general taxation.

Even with this subsidy, and assuming that all offices and the on site restaurant, are all occupied, York Council taxpayers still face an annual bill of over £500,000.

An Executive meeting which took place last week was told in an update on the Guildhall project that “additional delays have meant that it is presently considered that these additional costs cannot be contained within the agreed contingency”.

The scale of the over expenditure was not revealed.

The Guildhall is not the only commercial portfolio project to come under scrutiny.

Some independent commentators are sceptical about the timing of the Councils £2.8 million acquisition of 25/27 Coney Street. Rent levels are now dropping and with them property valuations in some high streets. Coney Street is struggling more than most.

Meanwhile large numbers of Council owned properties remain empty and unused.

These include Ashbank (empty for 8 years), 29 Castlegate (3 years), Oakhaven (4 years) and Willow House (4 years 6 months).

Willow House stands abandoned with no sign of redevelopment work starting.

We now understand that Willow House – which was advertised for sale with Sanderson Weatherall – has been withdrawn from the market. The Council turned down a £3 million offer for the prime site shortly after it became available.

None of these properties are accommodating anyone.

All are incurring maintenance and security costs for taxpayers, while at the same time attracting no Business Rates or rent income.

At a time when local authorities are on their knees financially, poor resource management is  a matter of concern.

Coronavirus York updates; 6th August 2020

Deaths and test results

Although no figures have been published at City level, national statistics indicate that the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus antibodies is around 6%. This does not include tests undertaken in hospitals or care homes.

The same source says that the number of positive virus test results in Yorkshire rose during the last few days of July.

The overall death toll from COVID-19 in York remains at 169.

There have been no further Hospital deaths in the City today. There has been another positive test result bringing the total to 928

York residents thanked for supporting independent businesses

A recent campaign run by City of York Council with Make It York and Indie York highlighted the lengths the city’s independents are going to create a safe, welcoming experience for customers.

As a part of this initiative, York Kind case studies, which have highlighted how different independent retailers are adapting and responding to the pandemic, have reached over 115,000 people online, with 4,000 people showing their support, by liking or sharing the stories.

Keith Aspden, Council leader, commented:

“It’s been inspiring to see the resilience and compassion with which our communities have responded to the crisis. Our local business community have worked hard to reopen safely, so it’s great to see so many people supporting the creative, independent businesses which make our city so unique.

“By shopping locally not only do we support our small and independent businesses and the staff and suppliers who rely on them, but also directly invest in our local communities at this challenging time.

“As we welcome residents back to the city and our shopping areas, we are continuing to put the safety of residents and visitors at the forefront of our reopening efforts, and by working with businesses across the city we are establishing and promoting social distancing measures. So please do continue to shop local to support our amazing local businesses and remember to stay safe whilst doing so.”

Johnny Hayes, Chair of Indie York:

“It was great to be involved in the #YorkKind campaign, shining a light on the efforts of our members to bring life back to the city and provide the products and experiences which York residents have been missing. We invite people to come and enjoy something to eat in August at our independent restaurants and cafés who are participating the in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.”

Talking Points offer face-to-face appointments online

A new way for residents to have conversations about how to live their lives independently and well is opening up this week.

Following lockdown in March, Talking Points have been unable to operate. Now, new online video appointments and drop-in sessions are available. Through these, residents can talk with City of York Council’s adult social care team, face-to-face and in a safe but effective way.

As before lockdown, residents can choose to book an appointment with a member of the adult social care team on a given date and time or, they can opt to join a drop-in session and wait for a private conversation.  

As usual, residents will be able to access information, advice and support from adult social care staff as well as find out more about local activities, support and resources.

This new scheme has been successfully trialled with a number of carers who were already familiar with the pre-lockdown Talking Points. It uses a secure system widely used by the NHS called Attend Anywhere. People wanting to use the system, can get familiar with it at https://www.york.gov.uk/VideoAppointments .

The drop-ins will be available on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 10am-12 noon and 2-4pm.They will take place just like the former drop-ins, but people will enter a virtual waiting room via https://www.york.gov.uk/VideoAppointments#dropin . There, they will simply ‘wait’ in the virtual lobby for a contact worker to be free when they can meet them face-to-face online.

People who contact adult social care and for whom a video appointment with a member of the adult social care team would be helpful, will be emailed a date and a time and a weblink to a virtual waiting room. In that waiting room, the resident’s details will be checked to ensure they are the individual who is expected. Once that’s confirmed, they will be invited to join the worker online, and each can see and hear the other. Adult social care workers will continue to be available on the usual number at 01904 555111.

Cllr Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said: “Feedback from those taking part in the trial is that these online conversations are an easy, convenient and secure way for residents to get the information, advice and support they need.

“Important appointments can be kept online while protecting residents, their carers and families as well as our staff. It also enables people to meet virtually, so that we can give the best possible advice and support for them to lead the lives they want.”

Flooding report – February 2020 wettest on record

£4.9 million cost for pumping station to protect Fordlands Road area.

It cost the City of York council £180,000 to respond to and recover from the floods which took place in the City in February.  This was the wettest February on record, with the most flood warnings issued in any one day across England. Rainfall fell on already saturated ground increasing the impacts.

The Council will consider a report on the problem at a meeting next week.

There is some debate about the apparently conflicting advice issued by local agencies and the information included on government river gauge web sites.

Generally flood defences held well although there were issues in the Fulford/Fordlands Road/Germany Beck area. A separate report on flood prevention plans for that area can be read by clicking here.

The preferred option would include the construction of a £4.9 million pumping station. If funding for the project can be found the work could start on construction next summer.

The meeting will also consider the latest Environment Agency report on its flood prevention works programme

Environment Agency Work Programme 2020

Bootham Crescent redevelopment set for approval

Planning application to be determined on 13th August

Council official are recommending that planning permission be granted to build 93 houses on the site of York City Football Clubs existing stadium. The Club is expected to move to a new stadium at Monks Cross later this year.

Proposed housing layout

The development, which has been in the pipeline for over a decade, will comprise 12 one bed, 33 two bed, 37 three bed and 11 four bed properties. Of these 18 (20%) will be classed as “affordable”.

The plans incorporate a heritage proposal agreed with Historic England which acknowledges the significance of the football ground over the last 90 years.

It consequently incorporates the following elements that will give distinctive character to the development and evidence the site’s past use –

  • A memorial garden and a retained section of the west stand. The retained section of terrace along with evidence of the location of the centre circle within the landscaping will allow for orientation and evidence of the previous layout of the site.
  • The ‘proposed flag location’ annotated on the site plan relates to the flag present at the football ground (in a similar location). Historically the flag was lowered gradually towards the end of the game.
  • The west brick boundary wall, which predates use of the site by the football club will be retained (it will be lowered removing the blockwork).

The report goes on to say,

The retained terrace and tunnel will provide a lasting legacy of the stadium and create a focal point for memory and orientation. The location of the retained terrace and tunnel matches the desired position on the halfway line at the midpoint of the Popular Stand and in front of the POS. The precise length of the section will be determined by conservation, engineering and health and safety considerations but is not expected to exceed 6m.

The preferred location for the memorial garden is around the base of this
structure to provide discreet location for remembrance. The side walls of the terrace could be used to support memorial plaques etc, while caskets and ashes could be buried at the base of the walls. Some existing metal fencing and gates in the Popular Stand could be appropriated to secure the perimeter at the top of the terrace and ends of the tunnel. Similarly, the
wooden picket fence in front of the Popular Stand should be reclaimed to border the memorial garden.

Centre circle

The idea of recreating the centre circle in the middle of the POS is applauded, it would be in alignment with the retained section of terrace and provide a further place for orientation.

Flagpole

The flagpole was originally located between the south-east corner of the pitch and the stadium entrance. It is suggested that the new flagpole is erected as close as possible to this original location, and that it flies a replica of the club flag as a permanent and symbolic reminder of fans’ allegiance to Bootham Crescent. Its proposed location does not exactly match the original position, but it is as near as possible in the proposed layout. Ideally, like the centre circle, it should be slightly further south and east, closer to the new entrance.

Any development will not take place until both the football and Rugby Clubs have moved to the – much delayed – new stadium. Commissioning work there is still apparently held up by the after affects of the pandemic. Social distancing regulations currently make it impossible to stage large scale trial events there, an essential prerequisite for stadium certification.

Details of the planning committee report can be found by clicking here

York Central Partnership welcomes confirmation of £77.1m funding to unlock homes, jobs and public spaces

….as Labour reveal plans to stop the project

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Labour have “called in” the decision to move forward with the York Central development. It casts new doubt on a project which has yet to receive detailed planning permission.

Labour cite post pandemic economic concerns as one of the justifications for shelving the project. They also question the conditions attached to the governments £77 million investment in the plans (see below). They apparently believe that the ambitions of the “House of Lords” have not been accommodated.

Meanwhile, the York Central Partnership has welcomed the government’s confirmation of the £77.1m funding to help to unlock the homes, better paid jobs and community spaces on the brownfield site.

The Minstry of Housing, Communities and Local government has written to the City of York Council to confirm the arrangements for the funding, which will be awarded to Homes England and Network Rail as the major landowners on the site. Under the arrangement, City of York Council will be reimbursed for the money it has committed to keep the project moving.

The funding is a major piece in a £155m funding package put together by the council working with fellow York Central Partnership members Homes England, Network Rail and National Railway Museum to fund the infrastructure works to unlock the brownfield site. The first phase of this work will include the access road bridge and spine road through the site, a pedestrian bridge on Water End and a rail link to the National Railway Museum.

Councillor Keith Aspden, leader of City of York Council, said:

“This is fantastic news for York. Our early investment and continued commitment, even during the pandemic, was essential to secure this investment.

The funding is a vital step to unlocking a £1.16bn boost to our economy, and delivering a new generation of jobs and hundreds of affordable homes, when York needs it most.

The York Central Partnership is delivering where decades of proposals have failed. Our shared vision for an ambitious development which delivers cleaner, greener growth and a fairer economy in York underpins the entire project, and we will keep playing our part to make York Central deliver for the whole city.

It’s also yet another important milestone following outline planning approval last year, funding agreements with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the York and North Yorkshire LEP.

This is the result of a lot of hard work by the York Central Partnership, and further demonstration of our commitment to an ambitious scheme which will give York the jobs and homes it needs as the outline planning application for York Central includes proposals to build up to 2,500 homes, including affordable homes, and a commercial quarter creating up to 88,000m2 of high quality office space. “

It also includes:

  • pedestrian and cycle route provision into and through the site
  • low levels of parking spaces
  • high sustainable design standards built into the design guide
  • around £15m developer contributions to deliver the sustainable transport infrastructure ensuring more bus passengers, cyclists and pedestrians.

This £155m funding package also includes £23.5m of a total of £37.2m from the West Yorkshire-plus Transport Fund and Leeds City Region Growth Deal, which will also fund the ambitious plans to transform the front of the railway station.

The West Yorkshire-plus Transport Fund has been part-funded through the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Deal, a £1 billion package of Government funding to drive growth and job creation across the Leeds City Region. The aim is to create around 20,000 new jobs and add £2.4 billion a year to the economy by the mid-2030s.

City of York Council has also received a Local Growth Fund contribution of £6m from York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership and agreed to borrow £35m to be repaid using retained business rates from the York Central Enterprise Zone.