Councillor Pete Kilbane
Councillor Pete Kilbane

Six weeks after the first transmitted coronavirus cases were recorded across the UK, many York residents having still not received any hard copy communications from City of York Council on how to access help during the Covid-19 crisis. The council’s initial attention to hand deliver an information leaflet containing a helpline and email address for residents has been abandoned, and a new plan is to deliver by Royal Mail.

Labour’s Group Leader in council, Councillor Danny Myers, has accused the council of trying to do things on the cheap when cost should never be a primary consideration in such a time of crisis.

“Other forms of communication are useful, but they will never reach every home,” he said.“We now have the farcical situation of local volunteers, who are doing fantastic work, finding their local volunteer groups needing to apply for council funds to print simple information leaflets for their local communities, in the absence of any official council information leaflet. That exposes the gaps that still exist in what should have been the relatively simple task of sending a single piece of paper to every home in the city.

“We know across a number of wards we represent that people largely or completely confined to their homes don’t know what help is available because they haven’t received details from the council of where to go for help.”

Meanwhile, the council and leading politicians have been drafting new communications to every home in the city before the first key contacts list has even landed. Labour says it is concerned that not only is information not being delivered with any urgency, but that in some cases it is not the information that is required.

Micklegate Ward Councillor Pete Kilbane said rather than supply details for local businesses, including those who can deliver food, meals and other goods to people’s doors, the council has been allocating time to promoting the role it has played in the crisis so far. He said:

“This current situation is incredibly frustrating for those of us in our communities who can identify the need and the information that would help residents to get through this difficult period, whilst also supporting local businesses.  So to hear ruling councillors saying the council’s communications have been ‘more than good enough’ so far is rather galling and shows how disconnected they are from what’s actually going on.  People are avoidably suffering by going without help and support that is available, if only they knew about it. 

“An estimated 20% of York residents do not use the internet and this group will contain some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. They have been badly let down by this administration. It’s time our Council Leaders took responsibility for their inaction, apologised for this communications fiasco and urgently made contact with our most vulnerable residents”.

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