York City’s Ten Year City Plan is a long-term strategy to improve the lives of everyone who lives, works and studies in the city. Cllr Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council, discusses placing health, well-being and climate action at the heart of the Council’s COVID recovery plans.
The impact of the Coronavirus has truly been unprecedented and since the pandemic was declared, local government has been at the forefront of responding to the challenges posed by the outbreak; from supporting local residents and communities during the lockdown, to working with local businesses to drive recovery.
For York, like many other local authorities across the country, we are continuing to prioritise support to our communities across the city during this difficult time, whilst at the same time, adapting to new challenges, including the financial challenges seen across Local Government. Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, we’ve seen demand for services increase, whilst at the same time, income has considerably fallen. Early indications suggest that we’re facing a £23 million shortfall in our budget.
In our initial response to the pandemic, we developed a One-Year Recovery and Renewal Strategy to tackle the immediate challenges posed by Covid-19, including supporting vulnerable residents through the establishment of community hubs, providing over £2 million in additional local emergency funding to support micro-businesses who fell outside of Government support businesses and residents facing financial hardship. We also extended our pedestrianised footstreets across the city centre, in order to facilitate social distancing and encourage the creation of pavement cafes.
Since the new administration was formed in May 2019, we have launched the UK’s first voluntary Clean Air Zone, committed to redeveloping our local transport plan, invested £1.5 million in Hyper Hub technology to provide rapid electric vehicle charging, introduced a further 21 electric double decker buses to give York one of the largest electric bus fleets in the UK, and approved plans to plant 50,000 trees and create a new woodland in the city. But as part of our effort to tackle to climate emergency, we cannot rest on our laurels, and we are determined to continue to make real progress on this target.
We recognise that to build back better, the Council could not achieve this alone and instead, we quickly identified the need to develop a strategy that the Council and its partners could collectively own in order to improve the lives of everyone who lives, works, studies or in the city, for the long term, our 10 Year City Plan.
To develop this strategy and ensure its success, we know that we must build on the strengths that are unique to York. From our city’s history and culture, to utilising the expertise in our innovative biotech industry, and seizing the once in a lifetime regeneration opportunity in York Central, a large brownfield site to the west of the city’s railway station with the potential to deliver up to 2,500 homes and up to 12,000 square metres of space for office, leisure and retail uses; there are opportunities in York that many other cities and towns would envy.
The plan will represent the distinctive qualities of York and focus on a number of key challenges that can best be addressed at a city level. These are likely to include the linking of our education, skills and innovation sectors to support employment, further develop the city’s response to climate change and ensuring a ‘people focused’ city, utilising York’s unique culture and heritage, and promoting a public health approach.
To support this work, we have also stepped up our regional and national lobbying efforts to urge the Government to ‘Back York’ by seizing these opportunities and making the city an exemplar of recovery. Our new lobbying campaign will support and link up with the work of other organisations and Councils who are lobbying for further funding for local authorities, including the Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, IPPR North, and others.
For those who are interested in our work and want to learn more, I would encourage you to visit www.york.gov.uk/BackYork to find out more.
In the meantime, we have also launched ‘Our Big Conversation’ (https://www.york.gov.uk/OurBigConversation), in order to ensure the views of our residents, businesses and communities can feed into our work to build back better. The themes and activities of our developing 10-Year Strategy will be discussed as part of the consultation, leading to its creation by March 2021. •
Cllr. Aspden delivered a presentation on this topic at the APSE Climate and Ecological Emergency Seminar ‘Building Back Better: Building Back Greener’ The presentation is available for download from the APSE website here.