York Council publishes background papers for COVID 19 decisions

York Council propaganda wearing thin?

Residents will be getting a bit tired now of the bogus assertions being made by some York Council officials about home food deliveries. Its quite likely that the government box scheme, arranged with supermarkets, to address the needs of extremely vulnerable groups is going well. We have heard nothing recently which suggests otherwise

The Council also says that they are satisfying the demand for information about paid for doorstep food delivery.

We don’t think that they are.

They say, “The council’s support line is also helping people who can afford to buy their shopping but can’t get a delivery slot, or who people who can’t order online. With a local news provider (YorkMix), we have compiled a list of businesses which are able to deliver food and other services, and this is shared with all residents”.

In reality the list is selective and far from complete. Lists on other commercial websites have similar limitations. Fair enough if they give priority to their regular advertisers (news channels also have to survive in difficult times) but the Council needs to adopt a more even handed approach.

The Council endorsed list excludes conventional takeaways, about 50% of whom are maintaining at least some sort of delivery service in the City. That’s quite important if you are hungry!

It doesn’t mention the situation at supermarkets which normally account for a large proportion of shopping volumes in the City. Pipelines are long (3 weeks +)

Nor is there any mention of pharmacy delivery arrangements.

Some emerging offers – like the elusive extension of “Deliveroo” and other courier services to the suburbs – also merits Council comment.

Perhaps the most concerning issue, for residents wishing to support neighbourhood “indie” outlets, some of whom are struggling to stay afloat, is that many don’t even get a mention.

In the Westfield area there are at least 10 food outlets offering some sort of delivery service. Only one is listed; the Acomb Greengrocer- and good luck to them.

The list looks like an advertising promotion with the information behind the adverts failing to provide – in some cases – even details of contactless ordering and payment options.

There are some examples of good customer service amongst the list. Several traders have grasped the need for an easy to use, prompt and efficient service. They, in particular, will deserve to prosper when things return to “normal”

But until delivery information takes the form of a comprehensive database which can be interrogated, and which is kept up to date in real time, then there will be those who feel it is unfair to those businesses that are not listed.

Currently it is not as useful as it should be and doesn’t warrant a Council endorsement.

Call for more transparency from York Council – how many, how much, how quick?

The York Council should publish daily updates “online” giving details of the progress that it is making in dealing with assistance requests.

The proposal comes after the Council issued a media release saying that it had settled £34 million worth of claims for the governments small business support grant.  The claim, contained in a media release from the Council, failed to give details of the value and total number of claims received, the number and value of those processed and the number of claims  where the recipient had confirmed that the money was in their account. There was no indication of the number and value of outstanding claims and how long they were expected to take to process. There was no indication how many claims had been rejected and for what reasons.

There is a similar lack of figures for business loans, rate rebates, hardship payments, food deliveries, rent rebates, ward committee payments, use levels at  the “Hubs” (that the Council set up 3 weeks ago at the governments behest) as well as the volume of work that has been passed to the 3000 volunteers who the Council says it has on its books.

At the moment the Council seems to be focusing on issuing “sound bite” media releases which encourage politicians to put their own “spin” on the figures.

The Council has been criticised for poor communications. A leaflet due to be delivered 3 weeks ago has still not been received by some residents. The information in the leaflet does however duplicate information readily available via radio, TV, social media and local noticeboards.

Now it has emerged that the Council plans 3 separate leaflets delivered from next week using Royal Mail.  The promised “Our City” is still not ready and there is still no “on line” database detailing the doorstep delivery options available in the City – the County Council (which covers a much larger area) has one up and running.

There is little scrutiny of what is going on. There have been no virtual Council meetings although one will have to take place in May to elect a new Lord Mayor. The obvious option of having an “on line” discussion forum has not been taken up. No Q & A  “on line” sessions with the Council leadership are taking place. Some Councillors are not answering Email requests for information.

The Labour opposition on the Council, while indulging is some public hand wringing about “not being political”, is trying to move work and funding to an organisation set up by one of their party officials.

The local Labour MP is playing every issue for maximum personal publicity and political advantage. (In fairness the Outer York MP – a Conservative – has been more circumspect.

We have a continually changing situation.

Things are not “all right”.

They may be as good as could be expected in what is a unique situation.

What people need, and deserve to have, though are up to date facts.

People can then make up their own minds about whether change is needed.

Council to publish comprehensive Coronavirus newsletter

The York Council announced today that it is to deliver a new “My City” newsletter to every household in the City.

The decision came after criticism of the fragmented nature of the authorities communications strategy.

Residents will be hoping that the newsletter finally provides comprehensive information on public service resilience and all aspects of the food/medicine supply chain.

The newsletter should be available in a few days time and will be delivered by Royal Mail.

The Council has also announced the availability of their e-newsletter. It will provide a weekly update about support and guidance direct to resident’s mailboxes.

To receive the e-newsletter visit: https://www.york.gov.uk/form/EmailUpdates).

Copies of the Councils media releases can be found here https://www.york.gov.uk/news

NB. In some neighbourhoods home delivery of newspapers has already been suspended for the duration of the health crisis.

Lots of volunteers, not much organisation?

The York Council has been criticised in the wake of its claim that 1400 people had volunteered to be local corona virus helpers. Critics say there are inadequate processes are in place to channel volunteers’ efforts into providing the right help for the right people in a timely way.

Many had expected that an “online” system would be available by now which minimised human contact while allowing the vulnerable to order and pay for food and medicines remotely.

With many supermarkets closing their “click and collect” services, and home delivery slots booked up for many weeks in advance, an alternative approach using local taxis and courier cyclists is needed.

The latter groups have seen their income eroded by the crisis. Some local businesses, including taxi drivers, have said that they would be happy to cooperate with such a system.

Any online system must allow customers to

  1. Choose their shopping remotely
  2. Have it bagged
  3. Pay for it – inclusive of delivery – “online”
  4. Have it delivered to their doorstep?

At the moment only a few small independent shops seem to be addressing this demand.

NB. The Council has not yet responded to a request that it publish a regular monitor of the food supply chain from “field to doorstep”. Such information as has been published, for example regarding stock availability at local stores, has been researched by sections of the media.

Job availability on farms (and even for key worker vacancies like refuse collectors with the Council) is also difficult to find online.

Corona virus update – 21st March 2020

….and here’s a list of some more small independent shops and takeaways offering delivery  in York

Robinsons, Bishopthorpe Road – Takeaway and local delivery  https://www.facebook.com/robinsonscafe/ Call 01904 674447

Trinacria, Bishopthorpe Road –  Home delivery 07421058429 https://www.facebook.com/TrinacriaYork/

Star Seed Catering – offering deliveries to your door https://www.facebook.com/StarSeed-Catering-106111740957137/?hc_location=ufi

Dough Eyed Pizza – Delivery. Order online http://dougheyed.uk/order-pizza

The Crooked Tap, Acomb – Delivering beer locally https://thecrookedtap.com/shop/

Tea on the Green, Acomb  – Takeaway tapas. Call 01904 789380 https://www.facebook.com/TeaOnTheGreenYork/

Le Cochon Aveugle, Walmgate – About to start up a 3 course meal delivery. Check out their social media https://twitter.com/LeCochonAveugle

Cakes D’licious, Clifton –  Open and delivering cakes. Call 01904 541100 https://cakesdlicious.com

The Hairy Fig, Fossgate – Open and delivering 01904 677074 or email info@thehairyfig.co.uk or text 07884493309

Frutique, Bishopthorpe Road – Open and delivering  fruit and veg. Call 01904 653821 https://www.facebook.com/Fruitique-404072462980566/

Miller Food Service, Dunnington – Open on Sunday as a Cash and Carry and now delivering to the public. Call on 01904 655368

Alligator, Fishergate – Open for all things veggie/vegan and cheese  https://www.facebook.com/alligatoryork/

Good Food Shop, Bishopthorpe Road – Their delivery service for those isolated and in need of food is ready to go. Call 01904 637445 and they will get food to people via their amazing volunteers. Please call 9am – 2pm and keep trying if they don’t answer straight away.

Bluebird Bakery, Little Shambles- Home deliveries of bread. Email hello@bluebirdbakery.co.uk with your name, address, tel and order and we’ll tell you what day we can get it to you and how to pay https://twitter.com/Bluebird_bakery/status/1241030658639695872

Pairings Wine Bar, Castlegate – Offering free toilet roll with every bottle of takeaway wine! https://twitter.com/PairingsWineBar

Richardson Woodthorpe Butchers will deliver

“We have had a lot of concerned customers (elderly especially )regarding getting out and about
From next Tuesday we are delivering to the over 70s or members of public who can’t manage to get out with our big man on a bike (woodthorpe only) no order to big or too small.

To other areas we will delivering in our van”.
You can order online (shopping baskets and PayPal all in place)
Or 01904 707876 pay over the phone

Marks & Spencer reserves time for vulnerable and NHS workers

“We are reserving the first hour of trade every Monday and Thursday, as a special shopping hour for our more vulnerable and elderly customers to help them get the food and products they need. For our NHS and emergency service workers, who we will all be relying on in the coming weeks and months, we will reserve the first hour of trade on a Tuesday and Friday for them to shop.

To help make sure all of our customers can get what they need, we have introduced temporary purchasing restrictions on some lines

York Council tenants told to report urgent/emergency repairs only

We’re focussing our work on our most vulnerable tenants so please only report urgent or emergency repairs. Please find out more about Building services during coronavirus here: york.gov.uk/COVIDOurServic


York Explore Libraries closed

A lot of free reads on Kindle. See one offer below.

“If you are going to be stuck inside, here’s the Kindle version of ‘Slouching Towards Blubberhouses’, my (hopefully amusing) book about Yorkshireness, available for nowt* until Wednesday. Please RT *free of charge”


On line” home delivery web site being set up (national)

Still in its infancy, but this is the kind of resource that is needed in York. Takeways – including cafes and pubs which have recently been ordered to close – should take note.  https://www.orderfrom.co.uk/

Home deliveries

West of York villages: Ainsty Farm Shop- ” We are offering a home delivery service to the local area on our way home after work, please ring us on 01423 331897. Priority will be given to more vulnerable groups

Free bike loans

Free 3 month bike loans for key workers! Would a bike loan make your life easier? We currently have 8 bikes, including electric bikes and child carrying equipment, languishing at Cycle Heaven. Just email yorkbikebelles@gmail.com

York Council reassures local businesses

City of York Council has moved to reassure businesses following the government’s announcement that pubs, cafés, clubs, bars, theatres, restaurants, leisure centres and gyms will close tonight.

The council has sought to reassure those who own business in the retail, hospitality or leisure with this message: If you pay your business rates by Direct Debit, we will stop your Direct Debit before the 1 April.If you pay by cash, don’t pay. If you pay by standing order – please cancel it. If we take a payment from you and you think you are an exempt business – contact us and we’ll pay you back straight away if we have made a mistake.

Today’s statement comes after yesterday, the Leader of the Council, Councillor Keith Aspden provided an update on the council’s coronavirus response and announced that it will create its own emergency fund to support local residents, business and communities in response to the outbreak of Coronavirus, whilst acting swiftly to make sure residents and businesses can access the Government’s support packages as swiftly as possible.

Ian Floyd, Interim Head of Paid Services City of York Council, said:

This is truly an unprecedented time for our city and country, which is having a huge impact on everyone.

“In York our leisure and hospitality sector is a key part of what makes the city such a special place to live, visit and work.

It is important that we all stick together to beat COVID-19 before it’s too late and we are keen everyone follows all the government measures around social isolation, including avoiding social contact wherever possible.

We welcome today’s Chancellor’s announcement that will protect 80% wages across the city. We hope that this goes some way to alleviate the anxiety of residents about their employment. We are now working to make sure all our businesses can access support from both the council and the Government and will be announcing more information about our emergency fund for residents, businesses and communities early next week so people can get the help they need as quickly as possible.”

For more details about coronavirus visit www.york.gov.uk/coronavirus.

The latest information on support for businesses is available at www.york.gov.uk/businesssupport.

Council summarises community help availability

Since COBRA’s initial meeting on Covid-19, increasingly strict measures have been introduced by the government in an attempt to slow the infection rate of the Coronavirus, Covid-19. 

Five days in, the Council has initiated a wide-range of actions to support the city and its communities to respond and support local residents, organisations and businesses.

Cllr Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council, said:

It’s now five days since the Covid-19 COBRA meeting was called, and we have been overwhelmed by the kindness and offers of support from York’s residents and businesses.

“The disruption to our daily lives cannot be underestimated, with many people now isolated from their friends or concerned that their livelihoods are at threat.  People are working long hours to respond to the outbreak or care for the sick. Yet every day, I am encouraged by residents freely giving their time to support people they’ve never met, or businesses offering hotel rooms for key workers or food for older people, who can no longer get out.

Reflecting on the week and listening to our residents, there are five important things to highlight:

The strength of our communities is incredible. Within hours, facebook groups were coordinating requests for help or recruiting people keen to be there for their neighbours. We’re working with these groups and established voluntary groups to recruit, train and deploy volunteers in a safe and coordinated manner, in order to focus resources on supporting the most vulnerable in the city. We have also committed to administering our Safer Communities fund more swiftly, in order to enable local community groups to access new funding quickly in response to the outbreak.

For those who are interested and able to help volunteer, please get involved via the contact details are:

Many of our neighbours need our help. Whether collecting food or prescriptions or keeping isolated people connected and involved, we are working to match volunteers to where they are needed most. However, if you are on your own and you need help during this time please contact us:

Our economy is resilient but needs our help. Many of our businesses have adapted to the current climate, sharing new ideas with each other and inventing new models of delivery. Cafes now offer delivery and takeaway services, allowing them to continue to trade whilst supporting keyworkers. More information is at: visityork.org/eat-and-drink/takeaway-delivery-york. Yet we must do more. The council is committed to helping our local economy and we have announced a local emergency fund to focus support to residents and businesses on top of the ones announced by the Government. Further detail of this fund will be shared next week and we will share regular communications direct with businesses. Next week we will be inviting businesses to share their contact details so we can get in touch.For now, please visit www.york.gov.uk/BusinessSupport.

We must do more. Public health colleagues are clear. To reduce the threat to our NHS, to slow down the infection and to keep make sure we don’t lose loved ones before their time, we must do more. Social distancing isn’t easy. It means doing things differently. At the council, as many people as possible are now working from home. We have stopped the majority of meetings and are vigorous in cleaning and hand washing. All of us have to limit the time we spend with other people. For more information: nhs.uk/coronavirus.

This is a fast moving situation, to keep up to date with the latest information, either visit www.york.gov.uk/coronavirus or follow our social media channels.

I’d like to take a moment to thank residents for their response to this crisis. If we continue to show this community spirit, work together, support each other and find new ways to stay connected, we will get through this. Our frontline workers both in the council and our partners have demonstrated the importance of key workers and public sector workers in health and social care, emergency services, local government and education are keeping the city and country safe. Together we can slow the infection down and help these vital services manage the response to this pandemic.”

Neighbourhood information needed to help combat Corona

The Council’s step to encourage volunteering is welcome.

But better coordination of the resources available is needed at neighbourhood level.

Those “self isolating” want to know which local shops are offering home delivery.

Residents need confirmation of which pharmacies are offering home delivery and with what capacity (any gaps could be filled by volunteers).

The Foxwood Residents Association is offering free social media and noticeboard publicity to local shops that

a) will deliver to doorsteps

b) accept remote payment – inclusive of delivery – by PayPal, card or bank transfer

c) Will take orders by email, phone or “on line” web site.

Any stores accepting contactless payments, and collection of food from a prearranged “in store” location (by volunteers), will also be acknowledged.

The Council needs to check and publicise regularly the availability of “on line” delivery slot availability at local branches of major supermarkets.

The Council could also coordinate the provision lists of stock shortages, of essential items, at local supermarkets. This would prevent unnecessary journeys

The curtain of secrecy falls again at York Council

Those hoping for more transparency at the York Council under its new LibDem/Green leadership have been desperately disappointed this week.

First a failure to reform the system for granting early release resulted in a “behind closed doors” decision which could be costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Now the Council has closed down direct access to the responses that it has made to Freedom of Information requests.

For over 10 years residents were able to browse “on line” what the Council had said in response to requests.

No more.

The responses have been removed from the Council web site and users must now search a disclosure log before requesting copies of the responses.

There are hundreds of FOI and  Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) requests made each year.

York Council block direct access to information

In most cases the issue titles used on the log – which is 6 months out of date – give little clue as to what has been asked. Much less could users second guess the answers.

Instead they must make an application for access to the source document.

In most cases we would expect that researchers would simply submit a new request.

At present the “What do they know” web site is unaffected https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/select_authority

The performance of the Council in responding to FOIs is poor. There is one current example – a request for  copies of Service Level Agreements – which has been outstanding for over 4 months; well outside the performance target set by the Information Commissioner.

Ostensibly the Council has made the change to ensure that those with disabilities have the same opportunity to get information as the able bodied.

Unfortunately the Councils interpretation means that both sectors of the community will now share a common level of ignorance and inconvenience.

As a minimum the Council should put a link on its “register” to the actual documents. Web services such as “dropbox” make this very easy to do.

A parallel service for disabled uses should also be made available.

Old York, Old York so good they named it twice

The Council are preparing to have one of their periodic chats about their “image” over the next few days. The style and use of logos will be on Councillors minds as they seek to redefine the authorities corporate brand.

There are apparently 40 different logos in use by the Councils various departments. According to officials “They are often used to create an artificial distance from the council creating the impression the council doesn’t do anything”.

The Council say that it is opposed to the creation of more “logos” although it failed to stop the seminally obscure “Live Well York” campaign which is an impenetrable “What’s on” listing service.

Many residents would hope that the Councils image is defined by the quality of the public services that it provides.

Anyone driving towards York on the A64 will wonder why they are welcomed to the City with two separate signs in the space of 100 metres. The parallel York Road entry to Askham Bryan neither welcome nor seeks to repel visitors

The Council has sought to raise revenue from roadside advertising for several years. Several roundabouts are sponsored.

One of the boundary signs on the A64 is sponsored by LNER and has a neat railway logo on the reverse which few probably see.(right)

Some, like the reverse of that on the A59 approach from Green Hammerton, are more obscure