Truce signed by York Council Group Leaders

The 5 group leaders on the York Council have sent a letter to the “local media” saying they are working “together constructively” and are leaving “partisan politics to one side” during the COVID crisis.

They say that they estimate that there will be “over 700 deaths in York by October”. (Currently 120 deaths have been reported at the York hospital).

They promise to make their communications “constructive”.

This outbreak of bonhomie is all the more surprising given that it has taken 10 weeks of crisis management before it has actually appeared. Residents may have assumed that everyone was working collaboratively behind the scenes.

 Maybe not it seems.

The decision to parade their credentials before the media – rather than the City as a whole – seems strange.

There has been no criticism of the Councils Key Worker staff. Rather it is the activities of senior managers and Councillors which is being scrutinised.

Communication with residents has been very patchy during the last 3 months.

Pandemic fears, expressed by at least one Councillor (Mark Waters) in February, were brushed aside.

York recorded the first UK cases of coronavirus but the authorities declined to confirm that the victims had recovered.

Although crisis hubs were set up promptly, the Council failed – and still fails – to provide food delivery information that is fair to all traders and is made available in an up to date format that is accessible to everyone.

Newsletters were promised but it took a long time to get them through letterboxes.

The Council Leadership eventually stopped replying to correspondence and a range of requests for information were ignored.

We still don’t know how many COVID tests have proved to be positive at the Poppleton testing centre. Some will worry about whether the “700 deaths” forecast is based on data from that source?

The number of road traffic accidents has not been publicly monitored (thought to have reduced).

Nor have vehicle speeds been checked using the automatic equipment available to the Fire Services

A decision making process of sorts was introduced. It limps along. Papers – although written in advance – are not published to the public before decisions are taken.

We have seen a half-baked contraflow cycle lane introduced on Bishopthorpe Road at a time which coincided with road works on the suggested alternative route. The result was unnecessary congestion which could easily have been avoided if proper advice had been taken.

A similar impulsive decision seems to have been made about reducing the size of the Marygate car park.

Extreme opportunism and posturing seems to have replaced the measured, pragmatic approach which effective  crisis management demands.

So when the Group Leaders have finished with their socially distanced conga, they might like to take some time to offer a transparency commitment to the people of York.

The Conga Line GIFs | Tenor

Coronavirus York updates; 22nd May 2020

New charges at Crematorium

The Council has agreed to change the fees that they charge at the crematorium. A report says, “

“The current full charge for cremations with a service is £895 – this charge was the 2019/20 charge frozen for 2020/21.

The charge was in place up to the closure of the chapels to mourners.

A decision was approved on 17th April 2020 for the ‘no service, cremation only’ fee of £550 to be used for the funerals where services were to be conducted outside the Crematorium.

Given that the reopening of the chapels comes with stricter constraints around social distancing and with shorter services of 20 minutes rather than 25 minutes, it is proposed that a lower than full price fee is approved.

This recommended price is £720 which is halfway between the two existing charges and reflects that the running of the services require additional staff and cleaning resources than a no service or outside service funeral

Deaths

There have been no further deaths reported at local hospitals. The total death toll for York and Scarborough therefore remains at 196.

Coronavirus York updates; 15th May 2020

Police fines

926 fines were issued by North Yorkshire Police between March 27 and May 11 for alleged breaches of the coronavirus lockdown laws. 179 of these were in York.

Virus transmission rates highest in Yorkshire

YORKSHIRE has the highest coronavirus transmission rate in England. Both the North East and Yorkshire have a transmission rate of 0.8 – the highest in England. It means that for every 10 people who are infected, they are likely to pass it on to eight other people. London’s average rate, meanwhile, has fallen to 0.4.

Deaths

ONE more patient with coronavirus has died at a hospital within the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The one further death takes the total number of Covid-19 related fatalities within the trust to 187.The trust includes York Hospital and Scarborough

The lost test results

An opportunity on Tuesday to quiz York’s Director of Public Health about the missing results from the test centre at Poppleton.

It appears that results from a across the country have disappeared (see press cutting below) .

There has been a surprising lack of comment on the issue from local MPs and Councillors.

Residents are invited to watch and interact with the council’s next live #AskTheLeaders coronavirus question and answer session on City of York Council’s Facebook page on Tuesday 19 May, 5-6pm.

Residents can interact with the Q & A session on Tuesday by either submitting questions in advance by emailing them to YourQuestions@york.gov.uk or commenting on the live video on Facebook 

More hubs promised in York

The Council has issued a media release today saying that it will extend the network of hubs set up to counter the Coronavirus emergency. The 10 hubs formed part of the governments contingency -plan to get essential supplies to those who were being shielded from the virus.

The Council also asked for volunteer helpers and claimed that over 3000 had stepped forward. It turned out that most of the volunteers were little used while the governments arrangements, for supermarkets to deliver food parcels, meant that fewer than 1000 deliveries of food were organised from the hubs.

The council now says

Since the helpline and hubs opened on 23 March, over 1,300 calls for help have been answered. These were for a range of support, and includes delivering 850 food parcels, information about food suppliers, prescription collection, financial assistance, information about cleaning and dog walking, and much more.

Staff and volunteers at the hubs have made nearly 5,500 telephone calls to residents to check on their needs and wellbeing, and over 200 residents have been connected to volunteers for ongoing wellbeing calls”.

The Council now says it will be working with communities to “create more drop-in hubs”. (The present hubs are not open to the public)

Hubs are very expensive to run. There is no indication from the Council on how much the existing network is costing, much less who has authorised an expansion. The issue doesn’t seem to have been discussed by any of the Councils decision making bodies.

A “hub” operated at the Foxwood Community Centre before the health crisis forced its closure.

The have, of course, been several neighbourhood hubs operating in the City for over 2 years. These pre-dated the coronavirus scare. Several have been reasonably successful and they do provide a meeting point for the disadvantaged.

However, they have often struggled to attract volunteers and mainly rely on paid staff. Hence they are an expensive option.

The Council says that it wants to mobilise its 3000 strong army of volunteers.

So it should.

First it needs to find out what motivated them to offer to help and whether they will still be volunteers after the health scare has receded.

Many will, of course, be returning to full time jobs over the next few months.

So, there are a lot of questions to be answered before the Council embarks on a programme which, in the stark new financial reality, it may not be able to sustain.

Coronavirus York updates; 11th May 2020

Deaths pass 100

YORK Hospital has now recorded more than 100 deaths of patients who had Covid-19, the trust has confirmed. Today’s daily death figures show that up until May 10, York Hospital had record 103 deaths.

Relationships website launched

A new website is being launched to offer families information, tips and help on how to maintain positive relationships during stressful times like the current coronavirus emergency.

Whether couples are together or separated, disagreements are completely normal. But evidence shows that regular conflict has a big impact on children.

All relationships have tricky moments it is how they’re experienced and resolved that matters especially at the moment for getting us through enforced self- isolation, lock down and social distancing.  We are all spending longer periods of time with our loved ones and this is bound to bring about some added challenges. Whether couples are together or separated the way they communicate can impact on their relationship and their children.

Relationship Matters can help everyone recognise the sign such as:

  • arguing, rows, shouting all the time about things like, money, how you parent, housework
  • being worried about splitting up
  • sulking, silent treatment, slamming doors or walking away from each other
  • being anxious or worried which gets in the way of managing everyday life
  • not being able to say sorry after an argument and move on
  • using hurtful texts, emails or Facebook against each other

The website can give everyone tips, information and help to stay calm, work out what needs to happen and signpost in order to get some help.

York Council must face up to real transport challenge

It came as no surprise yesterday when the government, in urging some people to return to work, specifically said that public transport should be avoided. The government says that only 10% of those using public transport will now be able to do so as work restrictions are eased. They hope that (nationwide) an additional 5% can be persuaded to cycle to work.

While the message may have mainly been aimed at the big City’s like London, there are lessons for York.

York has a successful bus service. 12 million local bus trips are made each year to which should be added 4 million park and ride users.

There are a similar number of journeys made by cycle.

Around 20,000 people walk to and from the City centre, on average, each day. Over 70% of trips to the railway station are made using “sustainable” means of transport (cycling, walking, taxi or bus)

The government says that it is targeting those making journeys of up to 3 miles (who could walk) or 5 miles (who might cycle). Walking 3 miles might take an hour, cycling 5 miles maybe 40 minutes. One likely bonus is improved fitness and relatively low cost.

The negatives include journeys being uncomfortable in poor – or very hot -weather while, for cyclists, York’s creaking infrastructure can present hazards.

Neither mode is suitable for those carrying tools, supplies or heavy shopping. The elderly and disabled also might prefer off peak public transport.

A decade ago the York Council staged a trial where employees volunteered to use different modes of transport to complete a “commute” from the Askham Bar park and ride site to St Leonards Place. One person walked, one jogged, one cycled, one used a battery aided bike, another used a moped with a bus journey, a taxi and a car ride making up the numbers. The moped and battery bike (in their infancy in those days) offered the quickest trip time (both were “parked” on dedicated off street spaces).

We doubt that a similar experiment today would produce different results.

In the ,meantime anyone wanting to buy a new bike may find supply is limited for the next few weeks at least.

The Council holds a lot of information on travel habits in the City. Origin and destination data is already used in computer modelling to forecast the impact that changes to the highway network will have.

We understand that no forecasts were asked for prior to the recent changes in the Bishopthorpe Road area. Nor was a safety audit carried out. There was no consultation.

That is not the way to win the hearts and minds of residents.

As the City becomes busier again changes will need to be carefully planned. Reports should be on the Council’s executive forward programme of decisions.

A programme of works and publicity covering the next few months should be published

If it isn’t, then there may be 15,000 former bus passengers driving into the City centre .

Coronavirus York updates; 10th May 2020

Death toll

A FURTHER two patients with coronavirus have died at York and Scarborough Hospitals. Their deaths take the total number of Covid-19-related fatalities for the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to 166.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in York has reached 395, an increase of two from yesterday. It gives York an infection rate of 0.19%.

Coronavirus York updates; 8th May 2020

Still no coronasvirus test results from Poppleton

The authorities still haven’t revealed how many of the tests carried out at their Poppleton centre have proved to be positive.

The national figures are being revealed each day. Yesterday 97,029 people were tested of whom 4649 (5%) had positive results.

Earlier in the week (5th May) North Yorkshire officials said that 4580 tests had been completed at Poppleton. They declined to reveal how many had proved to be positive.

If local results are in line with the national picture, then around 200 local people may have the virus.

Deaths

There have now been 95 deaths at York Hospital from coronavirus and 62 at Scarborough, making a total of 157 at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust centres.