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.