The absence of a functioning Human Rights Board for the city has led to a failure to respond to the Ukraine crisis, Labour has claimed.
As a ‘Human Rights City’ and a ‘City of Sanctuary’, Labour councillors say they expected the council-led Human Rights and Equalities Board to have made a statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, yet none has come.
Labour councillor Fiona Fitzpatrick, a member of the Board last year until it stopped meeting, said:
“We are witnessing one of the gravest moments in the past 100 years of European history and York has gone silent. If for no other reason, York should be saying something for the benefit of the Ukrainian and Russian people living in our great city, so that they know York is true to the ideals of its status as both a Human Rights City and as a City of Sanctuary. And so they know that the city sees this is Putin’s war, not one that the Russian people support. This would be an important statement to hear for many residents of our city, but only silence”.
The Human Right and Equalities Board has not met since its Chair, as a member of the council’s ruling Executive, participated in a vote to ban disabled blue badge holder access to York city centre last November. Since that time, no meetings of the Board have taken place, with the council only saying its future is ‘under review’.
Cllr Fitzpatrick says she believes the Board has ceased to operate to enable its Chair, Cllr Darryl Smalley, to avoid being questioned and held to account over his decision to ban disabled blue badge holders from the city centre.
“What we’re seeing is Cllr Smalley putting his own political face-saving ahead of York’s Human Rights responsibilities. So much so that a city that prides itself on its inclusiveness and willingness to look beyond its own boundaries, has nothing to say on Ukraine at all. It’s hugely disappointing and throws into doubt the council’s commitment to upholding our status as a Human Rights City and a City of Sanctuary”.