Coronavirus York updates; 5th May 2020

Waste tips to reopen. Green bin emptying and bulky waste removal services also to restart

Cllr Paula Widdowson, Executive Member with responsibility for waste services said: “I’m pleased to announce that all of our waste services will resume over the next two weeks.
“Today we have agreed changes which mean:

• Household Waste and Recycling Centres will reopen from 11 May by appointment only to residents and commercial waste customers for essential use.
• Bulky waste collections will restart on 11 May
• Garden waste collections will start on 18 May.

“The decision we took back in April wasn’t one we took lightly, however it was crucial we were able to keep residents and staff safe. I would like to thank residents for their understanding and also our incredible staff who have continued to collect household waste and recycling in these challenging times.

“The wellbeing of residents and our staff has been our number one priority and following resident feedback, we explored options to restart all waste collection services, including garden waste collections. In addition, these services can now be opened safely as staff absences have stabilised and we have developed new ways of working.

“Following my letter to the Secretary of State seeking further support and guidance to resume our services as soon as possible, the government released updated guidance today. The guidance advises that journeys to tips must only be undertaken if your waste or recycling cannot be stored at home safely or disposed of safely by other means.

“The household waste and recycling centres will also have social distancing measures in place in addition to our booking system. We will announce further details of the changes, including the booking system tomorrow.”

Confusion over grants to micro businesses

The City of York Council says it is gearing up to deliver a new government grant scheme aimed at local businesses, small charities, B&Bs and market traders.

It is unclear whether the grants will be in addition to any made under the Council’s own micro business grant scheme launched on 3rd April. The Council has not said how much of the £1 million, that they said they had put aside for those grants, has actually been spent.

York is set to receive around £2.2 million to support small and micro businesses that do not qualify for the existing grants or the self-employed income support. Council staff will work to ensure that the grants are received as rapidly as possible once details of the scheme are announced.

The figure represents the 5% ‘uplift’ promised to councils on the amount received through the coronavirus grants for small businesses and those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.

Local authorities have to wait for final details from the government but the scheme aims to help:

  • Small businesses in shared offices or other flexible work spaces
  • Science parks and incubators which do not have their own business rates assessment
  • Regular market traders who do not have their own business rates assessment
  • B&Bs which pay Council Tax instead of business rates
  • Charity properties in receipt of charitable business rates relief which would otherwise have been eligible for Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rate Relief

It is available to businesses with fewer than 50 employees and facing ongoing fixed building-related costs. Applicants must have been trading since before 11 March, and able to demonstrate that they have suffered a significant fall in income due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Councillor Andrew Waller, executive member for the economy and strategic planning, said:

These are extremely challenging times for the people who run York’s businesses.

“From day one it’s been our priority to get relief into business’ bank accounts as securely and quickly as possible, with over £105 million distributed in a matter of weeks, nearly 90% of previous grant announcements. We’ll do the same with these grants, and are working with neighbouring councils to make sure that, as resources allow, there is as much consistency as possible.

We hope that the Government will provide regulations to councils quickly so that we can announce details of how to apply early next week.”

Because the scale of the financial award to local authorities has been fixed, but the number of qualifying businesses and charity properties will emerge and vary, the council cannot immediately say how much each grant will be worth.

Full details of the scheme are expected to be announced by the Government later this week. Grants will be distributed by an application process. It is acknowledged that it will take a little time to set up this process to ensure all the correct checks are made.

Almost 90% of previously announced grants have now been processed with City of York ranking 12 out of 314 local authorities for the quickest payments to local businesses. Officers are continuing to work through these, as well as the micro grants.

Coronavirus York updates: 4th May 2020

“Reveal York test numbers” plea

Authorities have been asked to update residents on the number of coronavirus tests conducted at the centre established at Poppleton. The centre has been testing NHS, care staff and other key workers but, after an initial surge, it is understood that demand for the service has reduced.

No figures have been published indicating the number and percentage of those checked who have been found to have the virus.

In other parts of the country, test centres have been moving on to offer the service to other vulnerable groups including the over 65’s.

Covid case numbers up in York

Meanwhile, figures issued ) by Public Health England show that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the City of York Council area has risen by 15, from 300 to 315

UPDATE PM FIVE more patients with coronavirus have died at hospitals run by York Hospital NHS Trust, taking the total number of fatalities to 140.

York Council unsure about way ahead. Call for moratorium on new expenditure

Post coronavirus strategy confirms major financial issues.

The Council has published a review of its response to the Coronavirus crisis. It will be discussed at a “virtual” Executive meeting next week.

 The review mostly looks backwards and therefore contains little that is new.

The report does, however, say, “Further work is needed to accurately assess the impact, then to identify and plan the city’s response. It should be noted that, based on the financial information in this report, and the expected increase in demand for services as we start to move out of lockdown, this work will involve reprioritising council budgets, focussing resource on where there are greatest challenges and providing a new strategic plan for the council to work to over the coming months. It is quite possible that there will be some previous priorities that can’t be delivered in the same way in the light of our new operating context.

 A Recovery Plan is being developed (aligning with regional recovery activity through the LRF) which will outline the risks and challenges of the emerging situation, with actions in response and opportunities based on lessons learned during the emergency response. Clearly, this plan will take into consideration and align with Government advice and national plans for recovery. It will be used to inform a review of the existing Council Plan in order to produce an Operational Recovery Plan to guide the council over the next 6 – 9 months”.

That is the right approach.

There needs to be an immediate moratorium on taking on new expenditure. An “approvals committee” should be set up which can publicly test any new expenditure proposals.

York Council budget position 30th April 2020

The Councils initial assessment of its financial position may produce accusations that it is very much a “worst case” scenario. The government has today confirmed that in total it will grant £10.5 million to help the Council offset its estimated £35 million exposure.  Much of the defict assumes a high level of non payment of Council Tax and business rent.

There is a stark warning of cash flow problems later in the year “the Council would have to concentrate on providing statutory services only”. That would be bad news for services like leisure, with some facilities likely to close.

On its capital programme the Council promises a project by project review. “this will include considering the overall purpose of the scheme and whether they are still financially viable given the risk to the overall economy. This is particularly crucial for those schemes that assumed the generation of capital receipts to fund expenditure”.

The report is silent on the consequences of some schemes that area now past the point of no return.

Recent increases in the Council’s commercial portfolio are not analysed but there are fears of a forced “fire sale”.

Empty offices at the community stadium site (underwritten by the Council) could remain empty for years, while the pipeline sales of empty former social care buildings could also fall through. Options for cutting back on the £20 million Guildhall refurbishment project will need to be considered.

The Community Stadium itself, although outsourced, is dependent on other activities on the site to cover its running costs.

It seems certain that there will be delays on the York Central regeneration project while the £14 million new multi storey car park on St Georges Field will no doubt be shelved together with the rest of the Castle Gateway project.

Other cherished capital investment projects, which involved increased debt, and therefore increase the day to day running costs of the Council, will have to go “on hold”.

No new contracts should be let unless they direct address the adverse consequences of the health crisis.

Much more on this and the implications for other public services in the City will become apparent over the next few weeks.

Coronavirus York updates; 29th April 2020

Coronavirus cases in York

here are 258 known cases of coronavirus in York out of a local population of 209,893. That is a rate of 1229 cases per million – the 142nd highest rate in England.

Government loans for small businesses but York grants scheme flops

The new government “Bounce Back Loan” scheme will launch on 4 May 2020.

The scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000. The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.

Loan terms will be up to 6 years. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months. The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan. The scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders.

Read more here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-coronavirus-bounce-back-loan

Meanwhile the York Council has still not provided an update on its grant scheme for “micro” businesses prompting concerns that the scheme was just a bit of “window dressing”. The scheme promised £1 million in funding.

Criticism of the Councils reaction to the health crisis is increasing in other areas. It appears that only a small proportion of the residents who volunteered to help have actually had their offers taken up while several businesses say they are continuing to deliver food in the City but were not included on the Councils recent advertising leaflet.

Coronavirus York updates: 28th April 2020

Deaths & Recoveries

A TOTAL of 111 patients with coronavirus have now died at York NHS trust hospitals – but more than 170 have been discharged after treatment. It said 69 patients had died at York Hospital, which is an increase of 19 on this day last week.

Home deliveries

A list of “local and independent food out lets near you” leaflet is currently being delivered by Royal Mail to all residents. The list is far from comprehensive particularly in west York. Ward Councillors should have taken responsibility for ensuring that all every store offering home delivery – including takeaways – was included.

NHS is open

There are concerns that fewer people contacting the NHS for non-coronavirus related conditions could create future problems.  As a result, the NHS are reminding people they are very much “open for business” and people should continue to contact them with any health problems they may have.

Residents should contact the NHS by phone or online in the first instance. We have attached key messages from the NHS. This document includes more information about the NHS “open for business” campaign, information on prescriptions, vaccinations, strokes, heart attack cancer and much more. Please share this information where possible.

  You can still contact your GP, 111 online or call 111 for help. If you are told to go to hospital, you must go so the NHS can give you the care you need. www.nhs.uk

Dentists

Dentists have stopped providing routine dental care because of the coronavirus pandemic. If people are in need of urgent dental care they should first contact their usual dentist who should be able to triage them over the telephone and give appropriate advice. If they are not registered with a local dentist they need to contact NHS 111 for advice. Out of hours (evenings and weekends)  people should contact NHS 111.

Printed information for residents

The Council says that “our next resident direct mail focuses on health and wellbeing and should be arriving on doorsteps from Friday this week. It will also include a scam leaflet to offer residents advice on how to protect themselves from scams”.

Move the masses

One of the many incredible voluntary and community organisations we are working with is ‘Move the Masses.’

They have today released their latest figures of how much support they are offering across the city. In the past four and a half weeks they have:

  • Delivered 758 prescriptions
  • Made 116 hours worth of welfare calls
  • Paired up 156 people to receive calls and letters.

Their latest tweets are available at https://twitter.com/MTMcharity/status/1254701000197365760.

We pass on a number of call from our helpline to move the masses.  This is just one example of several incredible organisations working together to help and protect residents.

Ask a question at the daily government briefing

The government has announced that from today it will answer one question from a member of the public at the daily coronavirus (COVID-19) press conference.

Those asking a question must be over 18 and if your question is chosen, a cabinet minister will answer it during the live broadcast. Questions will be reviewed at midday on the day of the press conference. Only one question will be selected* each day and the Government has advised the public that Ministers will not see the question before the press conference and that questions are chosen by an independent polling organisation, with no involvement from the government.

Residents can ask their question at https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/ss/govuk-coronavirus-ask/

*So you would have a rather better chance of winning the lottery!

Coronavirus York updates; 26th April 2020

Consumer spending

Tortoise have updated their consumer spending tables. They are now live here  CLICK They reveal that York’s retail sector has been badly affected by the Coronavirus clampdown. The City is the 19th worst affected of 172 areas surveyed antionally. Scarborough (14th) and Whitby (7th)  are also badly affected.

The York Council’s Executive will be meeting shortly. We would expect to see them discussing a first draft of an economic recovery plan for the City.

Coronavirus deaths

THREE more people with coronavirus have died at hospitals within the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The three further deaths brings the total for the trust to 104. The figure passed 100 for the first time yesterday when it stood at 101. The trust includes York Hospital and Scarborough.

Testing centre opens at Poppleton

A drive through coronavirus test centre opens in York today. The facility at Poppleton Park and Ride is open for NHS and other key workers on ly, and they’ll need to make an appointment.

Zoom warning

The police have issued the following warning for “Zoom” users.

As I am sure you are all aware, the use of the Zoom application has dramatically risen over the past few weeks with people using it to keep in touch, whether this be for business or social purposes.  However, Zoom is faced some scrutiny due to how insecure it is from a cyber and online perspective, leaving individuals and businesses vulnerable to online cyber attacks.  In response to this, the National Police Chiefs Council has issued some guidance around its use, which I have attached to this email

How Age UK York are supporting residents, with the help of council volunteers

To help relieve pressure on emergency services, volunteers from the council together with Age UK York are driving discharged hospital patients home.

To help relieve pressure on the emergency services, 25 volunteers from the council’s pool of volunteers who matched Age UK York’s criteria have been deployed to join the charity’s Home from Hospital service and their existing two volunteer drivers.

Suitably experienced volunteers with no underlying health conditions and who aren’t medically-shielding, can opt to transport patients who have had Covid-19. They will use personal protection equipment (PPE) and extra hygiene measures which follow Government guidelines. This includes drivers using 1,800 disposable plastic car seat covers kindly donated by garages:

  • Stoneacre Ford York
  • Vantage Toyota York
  • Butts of Bawtry
  • Fulford Auto Services

Another example of the city coming together. Find out more in this press release

Council bring public meetings online in response to extended lockdown

City of York Council will host the next Executive meeting online on 7 May 2020 (The agenda will be published on 29 April). Members of the public who want to speak at meetings will be encouraged to contact the Council’s Democratic Services Team, as usual, and register to speak.  Those who register to speak will then be provided further details on how they can dial into the public meeting and contribute.

Homelessness and housing update

 We are providing accommodation for all homeless households and individuals in the city now and will continue to do so beyond this emergency, as we normally do.

 In addition to using our own and partners’ hostel accommodation, we are currently supporting around 35 homeless households – a mix of families, couples and single people – in self-contained bed and breakfast or hotel accommodation offered to us during the emergency.

 Depending on each individual’s level of need, single people or rough sleepers are housed in a mix of existing hostels and bed and breakfasts, and in hotel rooms – all in single rooms to allow social distancing and self-isolation.

 All the rough sleepers we are supporting are already known to us and the vast majority have accepted the accommodation which each and every one is being offered. We continue to remind them of the lockdown’s requirements, and work hard to persuade them all to come into and stay in their accommodation.

 Rough Sleeper services are operating in the usual way. For a bed, please go to 63, Lawrence Street or call 01904 416562 or at evenings or weekends please call 01609 780780.

 We are continuing with our services for people who are concerned about becoming homeless and need our advice to help prevent homelessness. This is being done online or by phone on 01904 554500 or via www.york.gov.uk/homelessness/housing-options. These teams continue to help people facing homelessness through, for example, financial hardship, relationship breakdown or issues with private landlords. We’re also working with landlords across the city to support their tenants and minimise evictions. We’ve seen a slight rise in single people asking our preventative services for help which may be because they usually live with friends or family who now need to self-isolate.

 We’re prioritising our work to prepare empty council homes ready to re-let and are finding private rented accommodation harder to come by at the moment. We plan to continue working with hotels and B&Bs for the duration of the lockdown to keep people safely accommodated and we are working on plans to ensure that as we move out of lockdown everyone will have accommodation options. 

Where individuals do become homeless and sleep on the streets, we continue to offer tailored support. Whether it’s mental health support, dealing with drug or alcohol abuse, relationship breakdown or poverty, we try and help each individual into suitable accommodation and services. Once they start working with us and our partners in the city – like Changing Lives or the Salvation Army – we can address each person’s needs including getting benefits in place, training for work, money and tenancy management, before helping them into stable accommodation.

 While we carry on with this work, we’ve had to be increasingly innovative about safely supporting rough sleepers – especially those with more complex needs or challenging behaviours – while also maintaining social distancing for other clients and our staff. Like all other services, we’re doing more by phone and are prioritising emergencies. With York CVS we are signposting the charities we work with, including SASH, Carecent and Changing Lives, to apply for additional funding for voluntary groups.

Coronavirus York updates; 24th April 2020

More Coronavirus cases and deaths in York

FIVE more patients with coronavirus have died at hospitals run by York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, taking the total number of such fatalities to 96. Two of the further five deaths were at York Hospital, taking the total number of deaths there to 58.

Latest figures from Public Health England show there were 224 confirmed cases in the City of York Council area today (April 24), compared with 209 yesterday.

Sainsbury’s open longer.

Sainsbury’s supermarkets will be open from 8am -10pm and many convenience stores will open until 10pm or 11pm.

For elderly and vulnerable customers, the stores still offer dedicated shopping hours between 8am and 9am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

NHS and social care workers can shop in our supermarkets from 7.30am to 8:00am Monday to Saturday before they open. 

This afternoon there was only ONE person waiting in the queue outside Sainsbury’s local store on Beckfield Lane

Micro business grants

Launched 3 weeks ago, the £1 million York Council micro business grant scheme continues to have a low profile in the City. Although the Council has boasted of its success in administering quickly central government business grants, it has been less forthcoming about the success of its own grant systems.

The scheme had been targeted at “providing £1 million in support to help York’s small and micro businesses” who were set to miss out on government support. The  micro business grants scheme would deliver grants of up to £1000 to 1000 self-employed, micro and small businesses who need it most. 

No progress report on the scheme has been published.

There is a similar lack of performance information on financial assistance schemes for  individual residents.

Supply chain and staffing concerns at York Council

 An internal memo from the Council has said “At this point (public) services are well placed and working as well as could be expected. The main risks as we move towards the peak will be staffing availability and increasingly the closing down of the supply chain”. The nature of the supply chain jeopardy has not been spelled out.

The Council also goes on to say, “ The economic impact will be significant and there is likely to be a new normal appearing across the economy as people have embraced new technologies and homeworking over the last few weeks. Planning to ensure the council deals effectively with anticipated surges in demand on services as things return to normal is expected to start when we have greater clarity over the likely extension of the current lockdown”.

The Council has refused to release a copy of its “business continuity plan” (BCP) to a prominent local Councillor. The decision has fuelled concerns that the authority may not have been as well prepared for a civil emergency as had been previously expected.

Other Councils have published their BCPs “on line”

Scam Emails

The police are reporting a substantial increase in the number of scam emails.

One apparently saw a bogus message from the Lord Mayor generated although the circulation was limited. It followed a similar attack on another Councillor a few weeks ago.

An internal warning note from the Council said, “the nature of the attack was social engineering i.e. the user hoped to illicit a response by targeting colleagues of the user being impersonated. It was also fairly unsophisticated in that it did not include any malicious links and the senders real e-mail address was not particularly well concealed”.

Separately North Yorkshire Police are reporting,

“A total of 9,473 phishing emails linked to sextortion have been made to the NFIB phishing inbox between 31/03/2020 – 19/04/2020. There has also been just over 200 reports made to Action Fraud in the last week.

Sextortion scams are a type of phishing attack whereby people are coerced to pay a BitCoin ransom because they have been threatened with sharing video of themselves visiting adult websites. These scams are made to appear all the more credible because they provide seemingly plausible technical details about how this was achieved, and the phish can sometimes also include a password used by the recipient.

The current campaign threatens that if the victim does not provide a payment within a specific timeframe (payments usually ranging from $1,000 to $4,000), which is requested into a bitcoin wallet, then a compromising video will be shared to all their contacts and social media channels.

What you need to do

  • Do not reply or click on any of the links in the email. You can report the email to Action Fraud at actionfraud.police.uk/report-phishing.
  • Don’t be tempted to make the Bitcoin payment. Doing so may encourage more scams as the fraudster will know they have a ‘willing customer’.
  • If you have made the Bitcoin payment, you should report it to your local police force by calling 101.
  • If the email includes a password you still use then change it immediately.

For more information, visit: actionfraud.police.uk/sextortion

Ramadan

As Ramadan starts new advice has been offered to those celebrating Ramadan. Whilst asking people to stay at home this Ramadan it offers advice for during Ramadan. A blog has been published as Ramadan starts today, with more information to follow. The blog includes information and advice and messages of support from Muslim leaders

“On Line” Council meetings from 7th May.

City of York Council will host the next Executive meeting online on 7 May 2020 (The agenda will be published on 29 April).

Council staff have been working to enable and support new virtual meetings, so local residents and organisations can engage with Council business during the outbreak of coronavirus. This work includes supporting the requirement to host safe and secure, virtual meetings online.

Members of the public who want to speak at meetings will be encouraged to contact the Council’s Democratic Services Team, as usual, and register to speak.  Those who register to speak will then be provided further details on how they can dial into the public meeting and contribute.

There is still no news about the Councils plan for its annual meeting which was due to be held at the end of May. It is almost certain that this will have to be held “on line” with any ceremonial delayed until later in the year.

Air Quality

We revealed the least surprising news of the year a few days ago when it became clear that the absence of high polluting commercial vehicles and coaches for York City Centre during the current lockdown had resulted in improve air quality. The Council has now confirmed this and listed the effects on individual streets. 

The analysis shows improvements in air quality (nitrogen dioxide concentrations) compared to ‘business as usual’ figures for specific areas of York where the council undertakes regular air quality monitoring, including:

  • Fishergate: a reduction of 43 per cent
  • Fulford Road: a reduction of 28 per cent
  • Gillygate: a reduction of 29 per cent
  • Heworth Green: a reduction of 27 per cent
  • Holgate Road: a reduction of 32 per cent
  • Nunnery Lane: a reduction of 38 per cent
  • Lawrence Street: a reduction of 29 per cent
  • Bootham: a reduction of 16 per cent

Average nitrogen dioxide reduction across all York sites is 30 per cent.

Coronavirus York updates; 23rd April 2020

Sick absence hits York Council staffing levels.

Being reported that 31% of the York Councils waste staff are currently on sick leave. This compares to a “normal” figure of 21%

Coronavirus deaths

FIVE more patients with coronavirus have died at hospitals run by York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, taking the total number of such fatalities to 91.

Learning together in York

City of York Council’s community learning team, York Learning, is posting daily challenges online, together with virtual courses, to help keep York learning.

York residents are being encouraged to keep mentally active by getting involved in lifelong learning activities during the coronavirus lockdown.

City of York Council’s community learning team, York Learning, is posting daily challenges online, together with virtual courses, to help keep York learning.

#CommunityLearningTogether sets short challenges and ongoing courses to inspire, teach a new skill, or help with relaxation. Courses and activities currently available online include pilates and dancefit; dressmaking, crafts, fine arts, computer skills, maths tasters and modern foreign languages.

Further information about the classes, challenges and lifelong learning opportunities across the city is available online or: @York.Learning.CYC on facebook or @yorklearning on twitter

York coronavirus testing centre to open for key workers

A drive-through coronavirus testing facility is to open at Poppleton Park and Ride in York, as part of the Government’s UK-wide drive to increase testing for thousands more NHS and other key workers.

The site sits alongside a rapidly expanding network of testing sites being set up around the UK, and is operating on an appointment-only basis for NHS staff and other key workers. The facility will be piloted for its first few days of operation.

This follows the launch of the Government’s partnership with universities, research institutes and companies to begin rollout of the network of new labs and field testing sites across the UK, with 28 regional testing sites opened to date.

This network will provide thousands more PCR swab tests – which are used to identify if you currently have the virus – for critical key workers, starting with NHS front line staff. This means those who test negative for coronavirus can return to work as soon as possible, and those who test positive are able to recover.

Looking after your pets during the Coronavirus pandemic

City of York Council has teamed up with the RSPCA in York to offer advice and reassurance about how residents can help look after their pets during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The council has a responsibility to ensure animal welfare is protected in York, including helping with dog related issues, animal licences (such as for exotic animals), providing wildlife advice and much more.

Together with the RSCPA, the council has provided a range of advice for residents below, including dog walking services, what to do if your pet is unwell and how to keep your pets entertained.

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