For background to this motion, please see our recent blog ‘Statement Presented to the Council: Ensuring Access for All’.
We were disappointed that Cllr D’Agorne’s amendments were passed and as a result of those amendments, the motion itself has been significantly weakened, arguably to the point of being purposeless.
To illustrate the issues from the amendments, we will compare some of the original points with the amended bullet points. If you want to read it in full, you can find it in the agenda pack for the meeting (agenda item 8 iv).
- Original: Council notes that every local authority has a duty under the Equalities Act to enable people to get as close as reasonably possible to where they need to get to;
- Amended: Council notes that every local authority has a duty under the Equalities Act to consider the impact of any changes they make and make reasonable adjustments to ensure that the impacts on those with protected characteristics are minimised.
- Comment: By changing this wording, the point is weakened.
- Original: Council notes that having alternative provision of services – eg online services – is not a substitute for access;
- Amended: Council notes that having alternative provision of services – eg online services – is being improved as a part of Council’s digital inclusion work.
- Comment: Royal Bank of Scotland v Allen clearly sets out that online services are not a substitute for access. By removing this from the motion, Council implies that online services are a substitute.
- Original: Council notes the significant numbers of complaints made by Blue Badge holders who feel excluded from the city centre following recent extensions to the pedestrianised footstreets area;
- Amended: Council notes through an ongoing consultation of disability group representatives, some residents who are blue badge holders have voiced their objections to extensions to the pedestrianised footstreets area;
- Comment: YDRF have had so many people who’ve been in touch with us about the issue and the numerous letters in the York Press by others illustrate the wider complaints. This is not about some blue badge holders having objections, it’s a lot. Many people feel so disheartened by the council’s approach to the issue that they don’t feel it’s worth their time and energy complaining directly to the council. However, we have made sure to represent their voice repeatedly so the council cannot claim to be unaware of their concerns. Again, by changing the wording, the motion has been significantly weakened.
- Original: Council notes that even before the Covid19 access changes, accessibility to York city centre was poor for many residents;
- Amended: Recognising that York is a compact city with street patterns that go back to medieval times, full accessibility is a concern that is currently being addressed.
- Comment: Other historic cities can and have done significantly better and it is time said cllr stops hiding behind history. access was poor because the quality of streets is poor and vehicle access has been being eroding over years. Again, wording weakens the intent of this point.
- Original: Council notes the “Healthier, Greener York” motion passed by Council in December 2019 calling for a city-wide approach to reducing car dependency, which drew a clear distinction between essential and non-essential journeys and which specifically requested that the Executive Member for Transport “works closely with disability advocacy groups and Blue Badge Holders to ensure that access to the city centre is maintained and improved for people with mobility difficulties or who are otherwise unable to use public transport”.
- Amended: Council notes following the “Healthier, Greener York” motion passed by Council in December 2019 calling for a city-wide approach to reducing car dependency, the Executive Member for Transport has authorised an unprecedented level of engagement with disability advocacy groups to address their concerns and improve access for people with mobility difficulties.
- Comment: The original point noted that the Executive Member for Transport was called to work closely with disability advocacy groups, however we have not been approached directly and when we approached the Exec Member, he directed us to the generic surveys rather than welcoming our knowledge of our community.
The September 2020 survey results have been twisted to reflect the end goals of having a traffic free city centre. Statements from the council continually hold up a statistic about how safe people feel, without recognising that the Council’s own survey in September 2020 found that more than 3/4s of Blue Badge holders disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “There is parking close enough to allow me access to the city centre”. Safety and access are not the same issue.
We can recognise that the council have undertaken work to consult with us however that work clearly evidences that the access situation disproportionately impacts on disbaled people in a negative way, thus in violation of the EA2010.
The rewording of this point also erases the acknowledgement of essential and non-essential journeys.
- Original: Council believes that whilst at times the different needs of different disability groups may conflict with one another, City of York Council must not privilege one group over another, nor pit the needs of one group against another;
- Amended: Through the ongoing consultation officers and members are acknowledging that times the different needs of different disability groups may conflict with one another and the Council needs to mediate between these.
- Comment: Council does not need to mediate between us, there is no agrument to arbitrate. As a pan disability organisation, we recognise that different disabled people have different needs and sometimes these don’t align however we engage in constructive conversations about this. Our issue is not with each other, but with the Council who is adamently trying to divide us and is using this ammendment to do it yet again. They are trying to create an argument between groups that is simply not there. It is clear that they would like there to be a divide and are trying to artificially create one in order to further an agenda.
- Original: Council believes that City of York Council has not yet done enough to ensure the city centre is accessible to all residents.
- Amendment: Council believes that City of York Council is facilitating an extensive engagement with local disability groups and residents with restricted mobility as it works to ensure the city centre is accessible to all residents.
- Comment: Engagement is only valuable if Council and the Exec Member actually listens to the full engagement rather than cherry picking points that back up a seemingly predetermined agenda. As mentioned above, 3/4 blue badge holders are not able to park close enough to get to the city centre.
- Original: Council resolves to request that the Executive and relevant Executive Member review and consider national best practice examples for pedestrian core accessibility such as Chester and Leicester, and implement measures that improve pre-existing access such that City of York Council meets its obligation to ensure equality of city centre access for all York residents.
- Amendment: Council resolves to request that the Executive and relevant Executive Member review national best practice examples for pedestrian core accessibility such as Chester and Leicester, and whilst recognising that every city has different issues and challenges, consider measures that improve pre-existing access such that City of York Council meets its obligation to ensure equality of city centre access for all York residents.
- Comment: Every city does have different issues but York is not the only historic city in the world. York can look to other cities and CONSIDER national best practice. By removing the intent to consider how other cities approach accessibility, we wonder what the aim of reviewing best practice is?