However, there is a growing likelihood that the season will be abandoned altogether, with must clubs in the league very unhappy about the government’s decision not to underwrite the additional costs of playing games behind closed doors.
Grants were made to cover costs during the autumn period. The expectation at that time was that the virus would be under control by Christmas. For a time small crowds were allowed back into some grounds.
However soaring COVID-19 cases led to a further lockdown, with fans having to watch games via streaming services.
Most clubs at National North level exist on modest budgets and depend on the services of part time players. Most players have other jobs (York is a full-time outfit).
The government offered loans to clubs to cover lost revenue. Most indicated that they could not legally continue trading at a loss, which would have been one of the consequences of the loan idea.
Last week 12 clubs wrote to the National League saying that the season should be abandoned if the government did not change its approach.
One club chairman pointed out that if the season were halted – and players and staff put on furlough – then this would cost the government more than extending the grant system until grounds were able to reopen.
Money is not the only issue.
Some clubs are having difficulty accessing COVID testing facilities. That is something that the government could and should fix quickly.
Another club Chief Executive said,
“With the fact that there is no testing paid for, unlike higher in the pyramid, it was not fair to put players, staff & their families at risk. Although a separate issue to the club funding it was equally important to get that resolved if by some miracle the season does continue. Some players have pregnant wives, live with older parents etc… Putting them & their loved ones at risk. Plus of course interaction in players workplaces again adding to the chance of infection”.
While there may be some element of brinkmanship from the clubs as they seek to get the best deal possible, the government should recognise that it is their decisions that have caused the problem.
They should quickly agree to continue the grants system agreed last summer.
Ironically, if National League football is halted, then the first competitive game to be played at the new Community Stadium may feature the York Knights Rugby team! They are hoping to start their fixtures on 21st March 2021.
The York Council has issued a media release indicating that the controversial Bishopthorpe Road lane closure will end on 4th August.
However no formal notification of any meeting being held, to endorse the change, has appeared on the Councils register of decisions.
No notice of any decision meeting was published by the Council.
The original decision to close one lane appeared to be based on a whim. It sprang from a request by a Micklegate ward Labour Councillor (Kilbane) but was quickly adopted by the Councils transport executive Councillor (Andy D’Agorne). There was no public consultation before implementation.
The reversal of the decision fails to acknowledge the harm and resentment felt by significant sections of the community about the ill judged scheme.
The scheme has been compared to the closure of Lendal Bridge where a intransigent Council persisted with a failed experiment for nearly two years before admitting defeat. It put the cause of traffic reduction back by 10 years. We hope that the iconic “Bishy Road” shopping area doesn’t suffer a similar setback.
The main criticisms of the scheme were that, contrary to claims, it did little to assist with social distancing. Indeed in places, bollards actually increased pedestrian congestion.
Cyclists were put at risk when using the contraflow cycle lane while those living in the St Benedict Road area had to cope with increased short cutting and consequent higher pollution levels.
Against expectations, in June the scheme was extendedfor another 2 months
Even many who acknowledged that traffic reduction was desirable, pointed out that an (off peak) foot street option might have won greater public support.
We said, right from the beginning, that diverting traffic onto Nunnery Lane and Blossom Street, when the latter was partly closed for utility works, was completely half baked.
So it proved.
It seems that gas works will return on the Blossom Street area shortly.
That, coupled with other road closures in the city, really would have caused traffic chaos at a time when the economy is slowly getting back onto its feet.
The Councils change of heart is welcome, albeit belated. We next hope to see changes to remove some of the unnecessary restrictions on space use in the Marygate car park and on the Monk Bar car park.
Face masks will have to be worn in shops from today. It remains to be seen how effective this government policy will be.
What is now clear is that some of the impulsive decisions taken a couple of months ago, at the peak of the pandemic by the York Council, have not met the test of time.
Tinkering with traffic systems without proper consultation or impact assessments was always a recipe for failure.
Crucially no attempt was made to define how success would be measured.
So how have they fared?
Bishopthore Road lane closure
This was intended to provide queuing space for shoppers. It was claimed that it would make social distancing easier.
Critics pointed to new hazards for cyclists on the contraflow lane, increased congestion & pollution on alternative routes and a missed opportunity to trial an off peak pedestrian area (10:30am – 4:00pm) approach.
The results have been disappointing with the alternative Nunnery Lane/Blossom Street/ Scarcroft Road suffering for increased congestion. Bus services have been adversely affected. There has been short cutting through residential areas like St Benedict Road where parking is also now a problem
There is little footpath queuing on the east of the shopping area. The forecourted shops on the other side have adequate space although bollards have reduced flexibility.
Verdict – scrap it
An ill considered scheme which missed the opportunity that part time pedestrianisation might have offered.
Fortunately there have been no accidents involving cyclists yet, although northbound traffic levels remain below average (as they do across the whole of the highway network)
Reduced social distancing requirements (now one metre rather than two) and the introduction of face masks should lead to this trial being abandoned. A more thorough consultation on the options for the Bishopthorpe Road area could then take place.
One of the general traffic lanes across Foss Bridge on the inner ring road was repurposed for cyclists (southbound) . The lane had been coned off while maintenance work on the bridge was carried out in the early spring.
Most cyclists opt to use the riverside off road path. Comparatively few choose to use the inner ring road.
Verdict – retain and consult on its future
There has been little congestion on this section of the inner ring road although general travel patterns are not expected to return to pre COVID levels before September.
The cycle lane has been obstructed on occasions by delivery drivers, taxi pick ups etc. so the solution is less than perfect.
Monk Bar car park disabled spaces
The Council allocated 40 spaces at the Monk Bar car park for blue badge holders when additional access & parking restrictions were introduced in the City centre (e.g. Goodramgate). A “free” taxi service link to the rear of Kings Square is offered. The decision – like several others – was taken by the Councils acting chief executive with no prior consultation.
Blue badge holders can park on single yellow lines and park free of charge at Council car parks.
The little used taxi service is costing taxpayers £354 a day.
It appears that no attempt was made to assess the demand for disabled parking spaces at Monk Bar or for the taxi link. The Council didn’t specify the use of low emission vehicles on the taxi contract
Typically no more than five blue badge holders are parking at Monk Bar at any one time. The remaining general parking spaces are being increasingly used but the car park has yet to reach the full occupation levels seen before the pandemic. The Council has also recently allocated more on street parking spaces for blue badge holders in streets like Duncombe Place.
While the initiative was well intentioned, the Council hopelessly misjudged the demand for the service.
Verdict – revise the scheme
The number of reserved spaces can be reduced and the taxi link abandoned. Consultations can take place with disabled group representatives and traders on other options. These might include a “home to city centre” subsidised taxi service for the disabled where costs are recompensed when goods are bought.
Marygate car park
Around 40 parking spaces have been cordoned off. The Council claimed it was to allow cyclists to avoid joint use of the footpath (which links Scarborough Bridge to Bootham Terrace). In turn this helped to maintain a two metre social distancing zone.
The scheme was criticised when proposed because if failed to assess the effectiveness of the obvious alternative (encouraging cyclists to use the internal car park service road) which would have involved the loss of only one parking space.
There were bigger problems on other routes from Scarborough Bridge both at the north (Marygate) end of the bridge and crucially at the station itself. A narrow tunnel connects the shared cycle/footpath to Bootham Terrace.
The introduction of one metre social distancing guidelines and the use of face masks will reduce any health threat.
Observations at the car park suggest that the cycle route through the parking spaces is very little used (with some cyclists opting to use the service road anyway).
The car park has been busy on occasions but has not yet reached capacity. This may change if August is as busy as it has been in the past
Verdict – amend the scheme to allow cyclists to use the car park service road.
There is no Coronavirus heath justification for routing cyclists through car parking spaces. The break in the perimeter fence can be retained – and one place bollarded off – to allow access via the service road to Bootham Tce and Almery Garth. A ramp to St Mary’s – promised but never delivered – would be a useful for both cyclists and disabled buggy users.
The Council should sort out an acceptable route for cyclists wishing to access the route from Scarborough bridge to Lowther Tce (long term plans for the station frontage remodelling need to recognise this demand)
A report due to be considered by a Council committee next week reveals continuing concerns about the security of personal data held by the Council.
The auditor says,
“Whilst good progress continues to be made (on Information Security & GDPR) , further improvements are required to ensure compliance with the council’s policies for handling and storing personal and confidential information. There are also a number of issues still outstanding, relating to actions agreed in July 2019, following a GDPR readiness audit. These actions relate to policies, guidance, contract clauses; the information asset register; privacy notices; mandatory data protection training; management information on data security incidents”.
No further details are provided and the level of vulnerability of Council customers to data breaches is not explored.
On the impact of Coronavirus on the Councils activities the auditor is similarly vague. He says,
“This opinion is however qualified, in light of the current coronavirus pandemic and the impact of this on the council. The opinion is based on internal audit work undertaken, and substantially completed, prior to emergency measures being implemented as a result of the pandemic.
These measures have resulted in a significant level of strain being placed on normal procedures and control arrangements. The level of impact is also changing as the situation develops.
It is therefore not possible to quantify the additional risk arising from the current short term measures or the overall impact on the framework of governance, risk management and control”.
NB. Another report, to the same meeting, claims to address the impact of the health crisis on the Councils activities. Unfortunately, it adds little to what has already been published and singularly fails to quantify the exposure that the Councils projects and revenue finance actually face.
York’s footstreets are set to be extended from 15 June.Themain impact will be on disabled access.
“City of York Council is extending York’s footstreets from 15 June to increase pedestrian zones within the city centre and support local businesses by providing residents more space to social distance, making access to city centre shops and businesses easier”.
“The actions are designed to support the council’s Economic Recovery – Transport and Place Strategy, to build resident, visitor and stakeholder confidence that York is a safe, healthy and attractive place for everyone.
York has one of the largest pedestrian zones in Europe, with many areas within York’s city centre already designated as pedestrian footstreets.
In line with the Government relaxing the restrictions for retailers this month, pedestrian zones will be extended to include the following streets:
Goodramgate (between Deangate and King’s Square)
St Helen’s Square
The core footstreet rules will apply to the extension area, including no vehicles being allowed to access, or park on, these streets, including deliveries between 10.30am and 5pm.
During the footstreet times, barriers (staffed for an initial period) will be in place in Goodramgate and Blake Street to control access, but emergency vehicles and the Dial-a-Ride vehicle will be permitted access at all times.
The council is exploring a further extension of the hours in to the evening, to coincide with the reopening of the hospitality sector, alongside encouraging the safe return of residents and visitors by considering incentivised short stay parking in some of the city’s car parks”.
Blue Badge holders can, as has always been the case, park for free in any council car park and can take advantage of using disabled bay spaces in Council car parks too. For more information on council car parks visit www.york.gov.uk/parking
The council is also exploring where it can create additional capacity for Blue Badge holders elsewhere in the city by the 15 June, and provide further support.
This will include shop-mobility type assistance and additional replacement disabled bays at Monk Bar Car Park. Guides will be available to direct people to other car parks and provide on the day information about car parking availability.
No more coronavirus hospital deaths have been reported this week. The total across the York and Scarborough hospitals remains at 210.
Safeguarding support for children updated and improved
Another step to further improve support for children and young people across the City of York has been taken.
Over 600 professionals from City of York Council, North Yorkshire Police, the NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and local health organisations have helped update guidance which extends the city’s coordinated approach to safeguarding.
This threshold document clearly sets out for all agencies consistent safeguarding assessment levels, at what point early help or intervention for a child or its family is needed, and the level or intensity of that help or intervention.
Published by City of York Safeguarding Children Partnership, the guidance builds on cross-city work already underway by York’s multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) which was set up in July 2019.
Reporting concerns about the neglect or abuse of a child is now done through the MASH and the updated contact details are:
Anyone who is concerned about the welfare of a child should contact the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 01904 551900, Monday to Friday, 08:30-17:00, or you can email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For out of office hours, weekends and on public holidays you can contact the emergency duty team (EDT) on 01609 780780 or email: email@example.com