Snail mail too slow

York residents are about to get a third leaflet through their letter box about coronavirus. The first was a small yellow leaflet which apparently didn’t reach every household (the leafleters quit).

The second letter came from the Prime Minister.

Neither missive revealed anything that people would not have already picked up from the TV, radio, web sites or social media.

They might have been some  solace for those living alone or those detached from modern technology. Perhaps less of a consultation when readers found they were referred to web sites for further information.

Now the Council leadership is apparently writing to everyone. The letter should arrive – via Royal Mail – over the next few days.

The, no doubt well intentioned initiative, makes the same mistakes.

The situation is changing rapidly. What is true, or a high priority, one day may have been overtaken by events the following day.  

Even judging by today’s standards, there is nothing new in the letter (see copy below).

It pointedly fails to reassure about the resilience of key public services. The basics for living are power (heating, lighting), shelter, water, security, food and (for some) health care.

The tricky subject of home food deliveries (for everyone) has still not been addressed. There is no comprehensive list of stock levels or food suppliers who will deliver to doorsteps.

Even basic Council services don’t get much prominence despite green waste collections having been abandoned and a mixed recycling presentation introduced earlier today.

Apparently, the letter will also include a card giving contact details of local ward Councillors. Now leaving aside the possibility that these representatives should already by now have made themselves known in the local community, what services can they provide in the current civil emergency?

Some don’t have contact telephone numbers listed on the Council web site. Some aren’t answering emails, others are isolating on medical advice.

So thanks to the front line staff who are all working hard and effectively.

Senior management at the York Council, on the other hand, needs to do more to address the basic needs of all its citizens.

Patronising, outdated or superficial letters aren’t helpful.

Temporary changes made to recycling process in York

City of York Council is introducing temporary changes to the recycling process in order to protect its vital frontline staff and allow for additional social distancing measures during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Residents are still required to leave recycling boxes at the kerbside and continue to separate materials in their boxes as normal. Collection days will also remain unchanged.

Waste crews will now be working in smaller teams to ensure that they can maintain a safe distance during working hours to protect themselves from infection.

Residents should be aware of the following changes to recycling collections, which include:

  • recycling will be split into two vehicles
  • a vehicle will collect plastic, tins and glass. Some mixing on the vehicle may take place
  • another vehicle will collect paper and cardboard
  • residents may experience two separate collections of recycling on the same day as the two vehicles may not arrive at the same time
  • in some instances, this may take a number of hours
  • as some mixing on the plastic, tins and glass vehicle will take place, the council will accept mixed plastic, tins and glass, but cardboard and paper must be separated
  • the council encourages residents to put out their recycling as normal, for 7am.

Cllr Paula Widdowson, Executive Member for Environment and Climate Change, said: “Our waste crews are providing a vital service during the Coronavirus pandemic to every household in York. We have to take these additional measures to protect them as much as we can. By pausing the start of garden waste collections, we now have more staff to focus on collecting recycling and household waste.

“You won’t see any changes other than your recycling may be collected at different times, with some limited mixing of glass, plastic and tin. It is important to highlight that some residents may have two separate collections of recycling on the same day and in some instances, this may take a number of hours between collections.

“Where mixing of glass, plastic and tin happens, we can assure residents that this will be separated after collection and recycled. We will seek to recover any additional costs of doing this from the government.”

The council announced last week that it would be postponing the start of garden waste collections, due to start this month, in order to ensure household waste and recycling collections were given priority.

These steps are being taken because of extraordinary pressures on frontline services during the outbreak of Coronavirus and a significantly reduced workforce. This decision has freed up more frontline crews and vehicles to focus on collecting recycling and household waste in a safe way for frontline staff.

The situation with garden waste collections will be kept under constant review, with an intention to resume garden waste collections as soon as practically possible. The council is encouraging residents to compost their garden waste at home, and to support residents in this effort, advice and tips for easy composting at home is available at www.york.gov.uk.composting.

Bolstering frontline services

The council has reallocated people from other teams, so that it can continue collecting household waste (black bins) and recycling boxes.

This includes redeploying staff from other services such as public realm and highways. The council is also working hard to increase its staff resource, including training a number of First and Pullman bus drivers, plus processing the applications made in response to the council’s urgent recruitment to support the refuse collection service.

Check when your bins will next be collected, get the latest service updates – all online! www.york.gov.uk/waste

Coronavirus York updates – 7th April 2020

Libraries mask production initiative

Explore is supporting a fantastic initiative using 3D printers to print safety visors to a design used across Europe and distributing them to frontline workers in York. The project is being led in York by two of Explore Labs digital makers.

Working as a collective they are mobilising local makers to use their skills and equipment to support frontline workers in the fight against Covid-19. Explore York has loaned the project three 3D printers and there is a network of at least 50 more printers today from a standing start of just two printers a week ago.

If you or your organisation know of anyone who can help with equipment, advice or skills please get in touch via the Facebook group 3D Printed Visors for Frontline workers York AREA

If you have a 3D-Printer and want to get involved, email interactandconnect@gmail.com  with ‘I have a 3D printer’ in the subject line.

If you live in York or the surrounding area and need a visor, email interactandconnect@gmail.com  with ‘visor please’ in the subject line. If you don’t live in York they will try and help you find a 3D-Printing group in your area.

FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/groups/PPEforFrontlineWorkers/

Green waste, composting and hedges

The Council is urging residents not to fly tip or burn green waste during the current crisis.

Unfortunately there is still no mechanism, where those with mainly hard-surfaced gardens, can get composting containers. This was raised with the Council several weeks ago when the possibility of the green waste collections being suspended was first highlighted.

With the growing season now upon us, we expect to see the Council issuing advice to the owners of hedges bordering public footpaths to keep them trimmed back. This is essential to assist in implementing the social distancing guidelines

NB Waste crews are working as normal this Easter bank holiday to collect household waste and recycling.

 Coronavirus response live stream

 Four of the leaders of North Yorkshire’s police, fire and crime response to the Coronavirus pandemic will give an and take questions from residents and businesses, in a live broadcast tomorrow (Tuesday 7 April):

 North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan will lead the live update with:

  • Chief Constable Lisa Winward – North Yorkshire Police
  • Chief Fire Officer Andrew Brodie – North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service
  • Richard Flinton – Chief Executive of North Yorkshire County Council and Chair of the multi-agency North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum

 People are invited to watch the meeting from 1.30pm on Tuesday on YouTube and submit questions in advance by emailing info@northyorkshire-pcc.gov.uk, posting on Twitter using the hashtag #NYScrutiny or commenting on Facebook. Not all questions will be able to be used, but they will inform the Commissioner’s questioning and the general discussion.

Coronavirus York updates – 6th April 2020

Deliveroo and McColls doorstep deliveries in York

Deliveroo (the bike home delivery service) is reported as saying that it has teamed with McColls to provide a food essentials doorstep service. The service will be contactless and will be accessible on the Deliveroo mobile App. .

No announcement has been made about when the service will be available in west York.

Links https://www.mccolls.co.uk/ & https://deliveroo.co.uk/

McColl’s, which has stores in Hamilton Drive in Acomb, Gale Lane in Westfield , Crichton Avenue in Clifton and Moorcroft Road in Woodthorpe, “hopes the service could prove particularly helpful for the elderly and those in isolation due to COVID-19”.

York Council housing

“Due to the current advice from the Government surrounding COVID-19, unfortunately we are only attending our properties to carry out emergency/urgent repair works until further notice.

We will be attending such things as, No Heating or Hot Water, No Form of Bathing, Full or Partial Loss of Electric, Only Toilet Block / unusable and Water Leaks.

We may ask you to be in a separate room while the emergency repair is undertaken. Operatives may also be wearing protective clothing, such as disposal suits, masks or gloves”

The annual rent increase for City of York Council tenants is to be halted for three months due to the coronavirus emergency. Residents are being assured that this year’s will be refunded. www.york.gov.uk/…/…/rent-increase-halted-for-council-tenants

Coronavirus updates for York – 5th April 2020

Three more deaths at York hospitals

A FURTHER three patients with coronavirus have died at York NHS Trust hospitals, taking the total number of such deaths to 20. York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has two major hospitals treating patients with Covid-19 – York and Scarborough – and it revealed yesterday that 12 had died at York and five at Scarborough.

Coronavirus – New e-newsletter service from York Council

City of York Council is encouraging residents and visitors to subscribe to receive e-newsletter updates about the city’s response to the outbreak of coronavirus.

The new e-newsletter service will provide information on the latest national guidance and local updates, direct links to useful resources, and signpost available support on offer in the city.

Within the last two weeks, City of York Council has already created a £1 million local emergency fund to support local businesses, a £1.25 million fund to help residents in financial hardship and recruited 3,000 volunteers to help those most in need across the city.

Residents can choose to sign up for three different email preferences to receive information on business support, advice for schools and families, updates on community services and more.  With the current situation continuously evolving, it is incredibly important that residents, communities and visitors can access reliable and accurate information easily. 

These e-newsletters will give people the information they need direct to their inbox. Those who subscribe over the weekend will get the first of these e-newsletter updates early next week.

To subscribe to direct email updates from City of York Council, visit: https://www.york.gov.uk/form/EmailUpdates

Cllr Keith Aspden, Leader of the Council, said:

“Over the last two weeks, the Council has already gone to considerable lengths to establish a new volunteering scheme, a new point of contact for those in need of assistance and two local emergency funds, totalling over £2 million to support our local businesses and residents.” 

“With all this work on-going in the city, it is incredibly important we make sure that residents, businesses and visitors are aware of the latest information in regards to the outbreak of Coronavirus, and more importantly, what help is out there to support people through this difficult time.”

“This is a fast moving situation and our new e-newsletter service is a great way to keep informed with the latest support and guidance. I would encourage everyone to sign up for these useful updates so that they are aware of the updates most relevant to them.”

Coronavirus updates – 4th April 2020

Royal Mail

Details of changes to services click here https://www.royalmail.com/d8/coronavirus-changes-service

Communcations problems and doorstep deliveries

Some questions are now being asked about priorities for doorstep delivery of food packages

A direct to doorstep essential service is being organised by the government. for those classed as critically at risk. Currently and subject to supply an individual box contains; hot beverages (coffee, tea bags), biscuits, bread, cereal, tinned veg, potatoes, long life milk, tinned protein (fish, cold meat excl pork, corned beef), fresh fruit, pasta sauce, pasta and rice, toilet tissue, hand soap or shower gel. This group also gets priority delivery slots from a local supermarket. The criteria for being identified as a member of this group can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

Separately some local GPs have written to some of their patients saying that they may be severely at risk even though they do not have any of the conditions contained in the above guidance. The letters don’t identify what the vulnerability judgement is based on. This group of people does not automatically get food parcels (or priority for supermarket home deliveries) although they are being recommended to stay at home for 12 weeks.

The authorities should clear up this confusion.

Separately forward delivery slots at the Waitrose supermarket are now visible on their web site ( https://www.waitrose.com/ ). Sadly there are no vacancies during the next 3 months!

The Council promised to send an update leaflet, to each household in York, with delivery starting this week. While we doubt the value of this form of communication, against a rapidly changing background, if delivery is delayed then the Council should confirm when (if) the communication will be going out. (see note below on e-newsletter updates.

Mental health and isolation

There is some evidence beginning to emerge that isolation is having an effect on some of those living alone. It is not restricted to the elderly. If you haven’t seen or heard from a neighbour, relative or friend please make a point of telephoning, texting or emailing them. Just to check that they are OK

The Council says, “This is a difficult time for everyone, with friends, families and communities affected by coronavirus.  The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy is the professional association for members of the counselling professions in the UK”.

They share this advice: www.bacp.co.uk/news/news-from-bacp/2020/28-february-coronavirus-anxiety-how-to-cope-if-you-re-feeling-anxious-about-the-outbreak/.

Please continue to look after yourselves and each other. Public Health England has published guidance for the public on practical steps people can take to look after their mental wellbeing and specific guidance for parents and carers on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Every Mind Matters platform has specific advice on maintaining good mental wellbeing during the current situation.

Free school meals

Free school meal payments and provisions are offered to all pupils eligible for benefit based free school meals and will be available during term time while the schools are closed. Provision offers vary and may include school provided meals, grab bags, vouchers or direct payments. This is dependent on each individual school. Schools have been contacting parents/and or guardians directly if their child/children are eligible benefit based for free school meals or meal vouchers. The provision will be made available to children of keyworkers over the Easter period, at the discretion of the school.

Information about applying if circumstances have changed is here: https://www.york.gov.uk/COVIDFreeSchoolMeals

Resident e-newsletters

Residents can now get e-newsletters from the council straight into their inbox. By signing up to their preferred mailing list via an online form on the council website, residents can choose whether to receive business, resident or families guidance and updates about support or services, or all three.

Visit https://www.york.gov.uk/form/EmailUpdates to find out more and sign up. Residents can also change preferences and unsubscribe to the e-newsletters if they wish.  Members are welcome to register for these e-newsletters too (noting you will still receive this update each evening

Scams

Sadly, a number of criminals are using Coronavirus as an opportunity to scam people when they at their most vulnerable.

The police have a list of scams and advice available. Veritau have also produced a list of scams affecting businesses and residents across the country with a number of messages to share on social media.

Tips to keep safe from scams

  • Do not click on links or open attachments in emails and text messages.
  • Take time to check emails or messages are from a legitimate source. Please be aware that fraudsters go to great lengths to make their communications with you look genuine.
  • Delete any suspicious emails or text messages immediately.
  • Don’t let anyone into your home without verifying their identity and checking they have legitimate documentation or an official ID card.
  • Never give out personal or financial information over the phone.
  • Only purchase goods online from trusted and legitimate retailers and if you have one, then use a credit card as this will offer greater insurance.

More help for York small and micro businesses announced

York Council has issued more details of a £1 million scheme to support businesses falling through safety net of government support

  • 1000 businesses are set for grants of up to £1000, with up to 1000 set for free access to FSB support
  • Council acting to put £110 m of government support into York businesses’ accounts – first grants to land in bank accounts next week

City of York Council has released details of further support for York businesses, including its £1 million scheme to help York’s small and micro businesses who are set to miss out on government support.

City of York Council’s micro business grants scheme will deliver grants of up to £1000 to 1000 self-employed, micro and small businesses who need it most. 

Applications for the grants will open before Easter, and will be available to businesses which:

  • have 50 or fewer employees, including one person business/self-employed;
  • need support adapting to new trading arrangements;
  • are experiencing financial hardship due to coronavirus, and
  • do not qualify for any other government grant or rate relief support packages.

In addition, the council has created a new fund to give up to 1000 businesses free membership of the Federation of Small Business. Also set to launch before Easter, these will be available to businesses with 30 or fewer employees. This will give each business access to a range of services, covering everything from legal and advice to cyber protection and insurance.

Grants will be issued to the first 1000 businesses which meet the criteria, so businesses are advised to prepare evidence in advance.

 The council will open an online application form, which will require company details, an outline of what the grant is needed for and the following evidence to demonstrate eligibility:

  1. proof of hardship and ineligibility for other schemes
    • for self-employed applicants: Business must have a Unique Tax Reference Number UTRN from HRMC with retrospective check
    • Registered business – must provide Company Number, or details from other registration schemes
  2. Evidence that the business is trading, for example adverts, web site or accounts

The council will contact businesses to review the effectiveness of grants and collect evidence of the impact of our funding. 

The council has also negotiated a deal which will allow 1,000 one person businesses, or 500 ten person businesses to join and access the free helpline for business advice.

Carolyn Frank, Development Manager North Yorkshire, Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“We are seeing more demand than ever for our services as small businesses and the self-employed find themselves needing advice and guidance, financial support and a powerful collective voice with government.

“We are very grateful to City of York Council for funding free FSB memberships for microbusinesses from their emergency funding, which is helping us reach even more businesses in York with specialist 1-2-1 advice and support.

“Our benefits in higher than normal demand due to the emergency situation include employment advice and protection, legal helpline and documents hub, FSB care medical advice line, cyber protection checks, FSB funding platform and cash advance and insurance services. 

“I’d encourage businesses to apply quickly to take advantage of this special scheme, because it is strictly limited to first come, first served. Of course businesses who miss out on the free scheme can still ask for our help, we have many free resources and a full priced membership starts from only £147 a year.” 

Coronavirus updates – 3rd April 2020

Coronavirus cases up in York

THE number of confirmed coronavirus cases in York has increased by more than 20 in the past 24 hours – according to Public Health England figures. Yesterday there were 36 diagnoses in York – today the number has increased to 57.

ANOTHER patient who tested positive for Coivd-19 has died at York Hospital. The fatality, revealed in NHS England’s daily bulletin, is the 13 death in the York trust. 

Grand Central cancels trains

Grand Central has cancelled all services from Northallerton, Thirsk and York to London until the coronavirus crisis is over.

York Council provided information

Support for parents and children

There is a lot of uncertainty around the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, particularly given the situation is constantly developing and the information about the virus remains incomplete.

Understandably, this is causing a lot of worry and anxiety for families. Those who have children and young people at home are often trying to work themselves adding another layer of stress.

This is why we have produced information packs for parents and carers to help them through the Easter Period and a pack to help them through the coronavirus outbreak.

It includes tips to look after the health and wellbeing of the whole family, home schooling tips and where to get information and help.

You will find lots of information for parents and families on our website at www.york.gov.uk/COVIDSchoolsAndFamilies

We have attached information packs for parents and tips for the Easter holidays. We will share social media graphics tomorrow together with a press release.

Download resource guide from https://www.dropbox.com/s/yzdrtzf3oh0t8gx/Easter%20Pack.pdf?dl=0

Community hubs update

A short summary of our community response:

The Community Response Team is now 23 strong.  Numbers of calls are ramping up:  yesterday 91 calls and 65 emails

Average call length is around 15 minutes. 

We have various levels of response:

  • Providing info – we are maintaining a listing of community resources available to people
  • For low priority issues (e.g. wanting windows washed, an oven door fixed, for specific items to be purchased in M&S) we will link them into the locality Facebook groups
  • For ad hoc urgent needs designing a bespoke response via a hub volunteer
  • Referring to a voluntary organisation

We are following up with regular welfare calls to the anxious and lonely.  We have allocated 400 volunteers to making these calls. (This is distinct from but sitting alongside CVS’s welfare calls scheme for GP referrals and housing’s calls to tenants).

We have a set up a team to maintain constant contact with all the voluntary organisations and other stakeholders to understand their needs and what they have to offer and feed that back into the picture.  We are sending them extra volunteers if appropriate but some cannot manage more so we are having conversations about how we increase their management capacity.

We have opened 9 hubs, with a tenth being looked at today. Each hub has 2 members of staff (except two locations who have provided staffing).  352 volunteers are allocated to the hubs.

In addition to providing local volunteers, the hubs are leading on feeding the medically shielded who have special dietary needs that will not be met by the government parcels.  They are also providing emergency food to other people who are not served by YFAS or the foodbanks.

Volunteers:We have over 2,800 signed up.  In addition to the uses outlined above and below we have allocated them to some pharmacies, to the community furniture store, and will increasingly direct them to other uses.

Vulnerable people needing help because they are directly affected by coronavirus and have no other source of help should email the Councils Community Support Coordinators at covid19help@york.gov.uk or call 01904 551550.

Police record speeds of up to 132mph despite motorists being told to “stay home, save lives and protect the NHS”

Some vehicles and motorbikes were observed travelling very quickly on the A64 York southern by pass yesterday.

Police have have now repeated their warning to motorists to stick to the rules of the road after a driver in North Yorkshire was clocked at 132mph.

It comes amid a rise in dangerous, highly-excessive speeds as roads get quieter.

A safety camera operator on the A168 recorded a car travelling at 132mph earlier this week.

Details of the vehicle were circulated to other units and a driver was stopped by officers from a neighbouring police force a short time later. The driver was subsequently reported on suspicion of the offence.

North Yorkshire Police has repeatedly urged motorists only make essential journeys and drive safely and within the law, to protect valuable emergency service and NHS resources.

Police patrols and safety camera vans, which are operated by key-worker police staff rather than officers, have been used at key locations to try to prevent further casualties.

Andy Tooke, of North Yorkshire Police’s Traffic Bureau, said: “Some of the speeds we have recorded as the roads have got quieter are frankly ridiculous, especially at a time when people have been asked to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.

“It’s unbelievable that some motorists are behaving in a way that puts more lives in danger at a time when NHS and emergency service resources are so vital.

“It goes without saying that if people stuck to the rules of the road during a time of national crisis, there would be no offences for us to enforce.

“We will not tolerate North Yorkshire being used as a race track, and we are continuing to target those who put lives at risk by driving illegally.”

The speed limit on the stretch of the A168 that the safety camera operator was monitoring is 70mph.

In the last few days, North Yorkshire Police has also recorded speeds of 117mph and several at close to 100mph.

Corona virus updates – 2nd April 2020

Another Coronavirus case reported in York

As of today, Thursday, April 2, there were 36 confirmed cases in York – up one on Wednesday’s total.

Doorstep deliveries – latest

Another fresh food home delivery option in #York https://facebook.com/heslingtonfreshfoods/…

Image

Supermarket queue length information can now be found on @Foxwoodra Facebook page. Please help to keep it up to date. https://facebook.com/FoxwoodResidentsAssociation/

@Connected_York is now offering an App giving details of some of the stores in #York who are offering home delivery services. https://we-are-connected.co.uk/

Askham Bog

Although the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust announced last week that it is securing where possible some of its reserves, there have been a small number of vehicles parked outside Askham Bog (Tadcaster Road) at times over the last few days.

The Trust said “As you are now aware, we’ve made the difficult decision to discourage access to our nature reserves because of the Coronavirus (Covid19) pandemic. 

Where possible, we will be closing gates and facilities at our nature reserves. However, as they are natural spaces it is not always possible to secure them; particularly where there are public rights of way passing through and wildlife needs to travel safely across our boundaries.

If you live locally to a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve and are accessing it for your daily dose of outdoor time, then please do it with the utmost sensitivity and care, and adhere to current government guidelines around social distancing”.

York Financial Assistance scheme updates

The Council reports on support for residents and businesses

  • YFAS has had 45 emergency applications since 23 March. We have paid 23 with a total value of £2440. Those who haven’t been paid have been asked to provide more information on their circumstances.
  • Since 23 March we have had 199 Council Tax Support applications
  • Since set up, as of this morning our helpline has answered 855 calls and 759 emails. These calls and emails do not reflect all the people who have asked for help as the help is also being requested via “other” call paths and mailboxes.
  • We have over 2,800 volunteers signed up
  • We have had 1,600 calls for help and deployed 750 of our volunteers.
  • We have already applied the business rates holiday to over 4000 accounts and have now created a secure new system to process grants totalling nearly £40m across 2500 eligible businesses. 
  • We have written to all 2500 businesses it has identified as eligible for the grants.

Council advice for landlords and agents

Landlords and letting agents concerned about the impact of Coronavirus, should read the following guidance and advice. We will not increase fees this year for licenses for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

Landlords applying for a new licence or renewing an existing one, have a three-month holiday period to pay fees if needed. Please email hmolicensing@york.gov.uk for more information.

Licence holders with outstanding conditions applied to their licences can apply for an extensions to some of these conditions by emailing hmolicensing@york.gov.uk .

Due to Government restrictions, our work will focus on essential matters where we believe there is imminent risk to health. We will keep the situation under review.    

Rents/evictions

For information on the Government’s announcement about evictions and support for those renting, please see:

www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters

Some practical points to consider:

  1. If rent is owed, please ensure your tenant is aware of it.
  2. If your tenant is experiencing financial difficulty, please refer them to the council’s website
  3. Ask your tenants to put their concerns to you in writing/email so you can discuss the matter with them with all the relevant facts to hand.
  4. Ask your mortgage lender what arrangements they are putting in place. The Government has confirmed that the three-month mortgage payment holiday includes landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus.
  5. Some landlords have already offered tenants a discount on rent or a rent holiday. Remember, that as with the mortgage holidays, this deferred rent will have to be paid back in the future.
  6. Speak to your tenant’s guarantor, where there is one.
  7. Ask your insurer if they can offer rent and legal protection.
  8. Keep your records up to date. This should include every conversation, phone call or email. Any arrears dating prior to 18 March 2020 should not be factored into this Coronavirus situation.

Waste collection boost from First York

First York bus drivers are helping to continue refuse collections. Four bus drivers with First York are learning how to operate bin lorries in a joint initiative with City of York Council (CYC) to support contingency planning for waste collection if there is a crew shortage from the impact of coronavirus.

The drivers began their training at the council’s Hazel Court depot this week and will spend four days developing skills in driving and manoeuvring the vehicle, operating the bin hoist, compacting devices and safety procedures with a x-person team on board. 

Marc Bichtemann, Managing Director of First York, said: “We have a close partnership the council and began thinking how we could support vital community services in other ways. Our drivers already have the skills in handling a large vehicle, so it seemed ideal to transfer this capability to driving bin lorries and provide a quick solution to any sudden changes in its waste management workforce.”

Driving a bin lorry requires a Class C HGV licence. First York put out a message to its eligible drivers and employees Simmy (correct) Hayward, Steve Ferry, Robert Dande and Chris Lucas signed-up for the training.

Robert said: “We’re all used to working in the community, but with the buses and passengers so dramatically reduced at the moment it’s a different situation. This is a chance to use our skills and help other essential services continue as normally as possible.”

Former Westfield school head dies

The former head of Westfield Junior School Mark Barnett has died. He may have become the latest victim of the COVID-19 virus. An inspirational figure for many local people he was the power behind the schools transformation a couple of decades ago. RIP

York Council House rent rise shelved for 3 months

The annual rent increase for City of York Council tenants is to be halted for three months due to the coronavirus emergency.

At the start of each financial year, annual rent increases usually come into effect. We are unable to reverse the annual increase in the billing system at this late stage, but residents are being assured that this increase will be refunded.

Council tenants are asked to pay their rent as usual and, those eligible, will be repaid the extra rent for the first three months of this financial year from 1 April 2020.

Tenants don’t need to take any further action because the refund will be credited direct to their rent account.

Tenants receiving Universal Credit and / or housing benefits are not affected by the increase as their rental costs are already met by the Government / the council.

“While we can’t reverse the annual increase in the billing system at this stage in the financial year, we will ensure no individual has to cover this increase for the first three months of the year.

“Anyone worried about paying their rent as a result of changes in their circumstances due to the current emergency, should contact their housing management officer (HMO) and seek advice at: www.york.gov.uk/COVIDHousing

“For more detail on the financial help available to tenants affected by Coronavirus, please go to: www.york.gov.uk/COVIDFinancialHelp .

York Council West Offices close

Following the Government’s advice that people should only travel for essential reasons, such as food, health or critical work, City of York Council will be closing its customer centre at West Offices from Thursday 2 April in order to protect residents and prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the city.

The customer centre has seen a large drop in the number of people visiting, as people have followed the Government’s health advice by staying home to slow the spread of coronavirus. Those visits that have happened have related to issues such as planning and would not meet the Government criteria of essential travel and therefore, risk staff and residents health.

Our priority is to ensure we are able to provide essential services to those in most need and do not create an increased risk of infection.

All welfare and business support information and forms are available online and those residents who need more help can call the customer centre on 01904 551550.

For routine business, as always, residents can call our customer service team during opening hours. People can also visit www.york.gov.uk where they can access most services 24/7.  With many services reduced or with different arrangements, customers are advised to visit the council website for more information.

Essential face to face conversations with vulnerable residents and those accessing social care will still be facilitated as part of their existing care. Any visits to individual’s homes will follow public health guidance. Existing community and neighbourhood support will continue and the council’s new network of community hubs are co-ordinating work locally to ensure vulnerable people are identified, and are able to access the support they need.

People needing help with no other source in place, can email COVID19help@york.gov.uk and they will be contacted.

All of our welfare benefits, including council tax and housing, and emergency schemes are available online with assistance available over the phone.

All services previously provided face to face in the customer centre by appointment, for example revenues and benefits, housing, planning and Citizens Advice York will all be available over the phone.

Our phone lines are open Monday to Friday from 8.30am until 5.30pm except on bank holidays. Remember most queries can be answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on our website.

The council will closely monitor and follow Government advice and reopen the customer centre when guidelines allow.

Executive member for finance and performance, Cllr Nigel Ayre, said:

“The safety of our residents and staff is of paramount importance.  To implement social distancing safe practices, we have had to review how the customer service operates.  We all need to reduce the spread of coronavirus to protect our communities and as a result, we have taken the decision to temporarily close the customer centre while the current Government guidelines are in place.

“Following the Governments advice last week to only make essential journeys for food or work, we have seen a marked drop in visits to our customer centre. People have been accessing our services through different means, either by phone or online.

“I’d like to reassure people that we are open for business and they will still get the same level of service over the phone or online, we just need to be extra careful to minimise face to face contact to help slow the spread of the virus.”

“Essential social care appointments will still be carried out and facilitated at an individual’s home, rather than in West Offices. Our new community hubs and 2000+ registered volunteers are ensuring support is given to those most in need.”