York’s Conservative Group has urged City of York Council to move faster in returning to normality with working from the office, improving frontline services and addressing the democratic deficit of key meetings not being allowed.
Group Leader Cllr Paul Doughty has paid tribute to all who have done so much to help in the fight against Covid but feels residents who are hard pressed are sick of the council coming up short and for Covid being blamed for issues which stem from Lib Dem and Green internal battles rather than the pandemic.
The motion calls for:
· Greater moves back to West Office working, including this to happen immediately for Directors.
· A report to look at what the council has done and will do to ensure money is spent efficiently and that when making redundancies the council protects frontline services.
· That key scrutiny meetings are resumed in person, in appropriately large rooms, as soon as possible to return to democracy the Lib Dems have cut away.
· There to be much greater openness with councillors on risk assessments to ensure transparency
Cllr Doughty commented:
Covid has been a torrid time for us all; but the vaccination programme means we can move back to normality – hopefully quickly but it must be safely. However through a mix of incompetence and cynically undermining democracy Covid has become the Lib Dems excuse for everything. It cannot be right that some residents have waited over six weeks for their green bin to be collected or that Health Scrutiny Committee, which is now more important than ever, barely meets and the meetings are often ‘informal’ which denies true accountability. Now is the time the Lib Dems need to stop the excuses and delivering.
The full text of the motion is below:
Working Towards Improving Democracy and Services
“Council acknowledges the challenges Covid-19 has brought to everyday life of our citizens. Many millions have worked tirelessly and shown resilience without complaint in order to help keep the city and country running. This applies to within the Council organisation and we give grateful thanks to them.
Council is pleased the UK vaccination programme has been amongst the most advanced, with a sizeable majority of adults having received their first vaccination and a majority (almost two thirds at time of print) of adults now having had their second jabs. Data shows that despite further new Covid cases, the vaccination programme is breaking the link between cases and the levels of serious hospital admissions previously seen.
Now, Council believes more ambition is needed by the Council leadership in restoring basic democracy which has been sidelined and improving basic services our residents expect. The administration has shown no urgency to properly restore the Committee Calendar so elected Councillors (not just the Executive) can have oversight and scrutinise decisions being taken. It remains unacceptable for many meetings taking place ‘informally’ with no minutes publicly available for accountability. Concerning for residents is the continued deterioration in basic services, recently including repeatedly late and in many cases completely uncollected green waste, overgrown vegetation which is once again becoming a problem and deteriorating roads and paths throughout the city.
Therefore, Council asks that the current administration commits to:
· Return to work at West Offices of all Directors and Senior management. While working at home might be possible for some tasks sometimes, after 16+ months, a focus on leadership is needed to address some of the service issues experienced here in York.
· A report to Customer and Corporate Services Scrutiny Management Committee on actions and mitigations taken to save taxpayer money in York. This in light of claims of a £6M funding shortfall in York due to Covid despite record national spending by Government. The report should detail how savings have, are and will be made and also indicate how the Council ensures the upto 20 likely redundancies indicated in local media recently are not amongst frontline key workers directly providing the services that residents value.
· A commitment to review the Council Committee Calendar in the coming weeks to enable a return to as normal as possible a Calendar.
· A commitment that Council meetings are held at West Offices where possible, or similar prominent city buildings (ensuring sensible cost) if they have a greater capacity. It would be hoped that educational establishments such as the universities and Community stadium management etc. would be cognisant that their institutions have already received huge financial assistance (and otherwise) from the taxpayer, directly or via the Council.
· Risk assessments for possible meeting venues to be shared with all Councillors especially in light of concern that a large City venue, which despite being open to the general public (in large numbers at times) appeared to be discounted for meetings by CYC, on health grounds for CYC staff and Councillors.”