City of York Council Executive Meeting – 13th January

On 13th January, Executive (made up of some councillors from York Greens and York Lib Dems) were asked to consider the location of barriers around the footstreets, to approve a increased budget to implement the scheme and to start the process of finding a company to put the barriers in place.

York Disability Rights Forum and York Accessibility Action were amongst those who spoke at the meeting:

Anne spoke on behalf of York Disability Rights Forum

I will comment briefly on the existing temporary measures, as they are already causing access issues and Recommendations Point F calls for extending the staffing of the current barriers. An incident reported on twitter on 22nd November 2021, tells of a lady in a wheelchair being denied access through the manned on-street barrier by the Minster. The temporary ramp in place was not suitable for her wheelchair and the barrier blocked the street. What training is given to those manning the barriers and why is opening the barriers for a wheelchair user not allowed? Why is the ramp access provided not fit for purpose? What measures and money has been put aside to install dropped kerbs round the barriers? Until these are in place wheelchair users should be allowed to pass through the barriers.

This raises the question of safety. In the event of a terror attack it appears a wheelchair user could become stranded behind a barrier inside the footstreet area and unable to evacuate.

This also begs the question, if there is money available to staff the barriers then why can’t Blue Badge holders access the footstreets area via these staffed barriers and show their Blue Badges upon entry? This would be a simple solution and is something that was recommended in the Martin Higgitt report commissioned by CYC (City of York Council).

The police letter Annex D, notes responsibilities under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is also listed in the Equalities Impact Assessment, Annex C. I would like to point out that the Convention demands other responsibilities, particularly Article 14: the prohibition of discrimination. It is extremely concerning that this is not even mentioned in the Equalities Assessment when, it is clear that the current measures and proposed new measures are impacting York’s disabled residents.

Solutions have been offered by various groups and in the Martin Higgitt report, specifically commissioned by the council, but the council is currently, and proposing to continue, discriminating against disabled people.

To quickly highlight futher issues of concern in Equalities Assessment:

  • 1.3 The stakeholders include the disabled residents of York and they are not specifically listed in an equalities document.
  • 2.1 Surveys were carried out. No specific numbers of Blue Badge users are listed or the distances from parking place to the centre and how the proposals affect that.
  • 3.1 On discussuing impact, there is nothing about monitoring impact on the disabled community and how this might feed back into the adjustment of of anti- terror measures.
  • 4.1 Disability This entire section is concerning. Listing points without suggesting mitigation does not make the problem go away.
  • 6.1 Extremely concerning that ‘no potential for adverse impact’ is stated.

Finally, I know that speaker slots for this session were oversubscribed and those without slots were given a chance to make written submissions. Will these be made publicly available and added into the minutes of this meeting? The oversubscribed nature shows that the council have not got this issue right and stating they have a good relationship with the disabled community does not meant that they do.

Jane Burton spoke on behalf of York Accessibility Action

This situation is bringing national shame upon the council. Look North, Calendar News and Sky have all covered the issues along with national and local newspapers, Human Rights Groups and national disability organisations.

However, it is still not too late to reconsider the discriminatory stance taken and to undertake meaningful negotiation with local DPO’s (Disabled People’s Organisations) to radically improve the mitigations necessary to reopen the city, to its largest protected minority group – the disabled residents and visitors to York.

Apart from saving its reputation, this change of heart, even at this late stage, would save the council from using money it can ill afford to spend on legal defence fees and fines as legal action is now imminent.

It is lazy not to offer proper mitigations, there has been an unwillingness to implement the recommendations from multiple organisations, including the excellent report it commissioned, from Martin Higgitt Associates. Of course disabled people are all for keeping our streets safe from terrorist attacks, we would be foolish not to. But how can York use this as an excuse to exclude disabled residents when other cities have Hostile Vehicle Mitigation areas and still maintain access for blue badge holders ? Chester and Bath are just two good examples. Why can’t York ask advice? Bath have now changed their position. There is nothing to stop York doing the same and allowing this apartheid situation to be brought to an end.

The introduction of staffed entry barriers in York would allow entry to private cars registered as disabled or a taxi taking a blue badge holder, the technology already exists. It really is not rocket science.

York is allowing access into the streets for many vehicles who have a waiver – so why is there such intransigence? We sincerely hope that it is not disguising a policy of a car free city at any cost?

The real cost here is to grandparents who can’t join their families’ celebrations in city centre restaurants because they can’t walk the long distances that the very late 8pm curfew has imposed on them, parents whose children are disabled are not able to get into town with their children as they need constant access to their vehicles which include vital medical equipment, visually impaired people who are now lost in unfamiliar streets and have to call for help, disabled people of all ages are unable to enjoy the very accessible City Screen, people unable to access the Post Office in Coney Street, visit their banks, dentists, opticians, hairdresser or favourite shops. These same people will remember how they have been excluded when it comes time to vote in 2023.

I urge you to listen to all the statements we are making tonight and have made since the ban was initially imposed in June 2020 and to think again. Please spare us all from the damaged reputation and inhumanity that is currently taking place.

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