51% increase in unemployment in York

The latest claimant count figures for York show a total of 4995 residents now unemployed. This represents 3.6% of the population.

Perhaps not surprisingly – given the health restrictions – unemployment has increased by 51% compared to this time last year.

York’s employment rate, however, remains higher than either the regional or national averages.

The figures do not include those who are on “furlough”. It will become clearer in the autumn how many of these jobs will be sustained into the future. The country is now in recession (economy shrinking), so recovery may be slow.

In York the important visitor economy is slowly improving. Traders will be hoping that this trend is sustained in the important period up to the new year.

After that, things are less predictable with the roll out of an effective conronavirus vaccine likely to be a key driver of any recovery.

Coronavirus York updates; 6th August 2020

Deaths and test results

Although no figures have been published at City level, national statistics indicate that the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus antibodies is around 6%. This does not include tests undertaken in hospitals or care homes.

The same source says that the number of positive virus test results in Yorkshire rose during the last few days of July.

The overall death toll from COVID-19 in York remains at 169.

There have been no further Hospital deaths in the City today. There has been another positive test result bringing the total to 928

York residents thanked for supporting independent businesses

A recent campaign run by City of York Council with Make It York and Indie York highlighted the lengths the city’s independents are going to create a safe, welcoming experience for customers.

As a part of this initiative, York Kind case studies, which have highlighted how different independent retailers are adapting and responding to the pandemic, have reached over 115,000 people online, with 4,000 people showing their support, by liking or sharing the stories.

Keith Aspden, Council leader, commented:

“It’s been inspiring to see the resilience and compassion with which our communities have responded to the crisis. Our local business community have worked hard to reopen safely, so it’s great to see so many people supporting the creative, independent businesses which make our city so unique.

“By shopping locally not only do we support our small and independent businesses and the staff and suppliers who rely on them, but also directly invest in our local communities at this challenging time.

“As we welcome residents back to the city and our shopping areas, we are continuing to put the safety of residents and visitors at the forefront of our reopening efforts, and by working with businesses across the city we are establishing and promoting social distancing measures. So please do continue to shop local to support our amazing local businesses and remember to stay safe whilst doing so.”

Johnny Hayes, Chair of Indie York:

“It was great to be involved in the #YorkKind campaign, shining a light on the efforts of our members to bring life back to the city and provide the products and experiences which York residents have been missing. We invite people to come and enjoy something to eat in August at our independent restaurants and cafés who are participating the in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.”

Talking Points offer face-to-face appointments online

A new way for residents to have conversations about how to live their lives independently and well is opening up this week.

Following lockdown in March, Talking Points have been unable to operate. Now, new online video appointments and drop-in sessions are available. Through these, residents can talk with City of York Council’s adult social care team, face-to-face and in a safe but effective way.

As before lockdown, residents can choose to book an appointment with a member of the adult social care team on a given date and time or, they can opt to join a drop-in session and wait for a private conversation.  

As usual, residents will be able to access information, advice and support from adult social care staff as well as find out more about local activities, support and resources.

This new scheme has been successfully trialled with a number of carers who were already familiar with the pre-lockdown Talking Points. It uses a secure system widely used by the NHS called Attend Anywhere. People wanting to use the system, can get familiar with it at https://www.york.gov.uk/VideoAppointments .

The drop-ins will be available on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 10am-12 noon and 2-4pm.They will take place just like the former drop-ins, but people will enter a virtual waiting room via https://www.york.gov.uk/VideoAppointments#dropin . There, they will simply ‘wait’ in the virtual lobby for a contact worker to be free when they can meet them face-to-face online.

People who contact adult social care and for whom a video appointment with a member of the adult social care team would be helpful, will be emailed a date and a time and a weblink to a virtual waiting room. In that waiting room, the resident’s details will be checked to ensure they are the individual who is expected. Once that’s confirmed, they will be invited to join the worker online, and each can see and hear the other. Adult social care workers will continue to be available on the usual number at 01904 555111.

Cllr Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said: “Feedback from those taking part in the trial is that these online conversations are an easy, convenient and secure way for residents to get the information, advice and support they need.

“Important appointments can be kept online while protecting residents, their carers and families as well as our staff. It also enables people to meet virtually, so that we can give the best possible advice and support for them to lead the lives they want.”

Busier in York today

A lot more visitors to York City centre today. Most of the car parks used by shoppers were full.

Never been a more important time for the Council to get its car park space availability advance signs working again. Same for variable message signs.
Nunnery Lane car park full
Half a dozen unoccupied disabled spaces at Nunnery Lane
Reason why some people don’t cycle into York? Bike -or most of it – may have gone by the time you return
Castle car park – York’s most popular with shoppers – full today. This is the car park that some Councillors wish to close.
Peel Street car park full. This is the privately owned car park which is offering free parking in conjunction with some City centre traders. Seems to be very successful
College Street attractions proving to be popular. Possible scope for something similar in the Duncombe Place/Deans Park area?
More people in Parliament Street but the space is still underused.
Improving footfall on Fossgate with a coupe of restaurants serving from outside tables.
Goodramgate foot street also well used today
People even queuing to get into Spark! Council may be hoping for a rent payment?
Monk Bar general spaces 95% occupied. Unfortunately, once again, only four of the 40 spaces reserved for blue badge holders were in use. Needs an early policy review.
Most embarrassing gaff by the Council is the – largely unused – cycling lane in the Marygate car park. The rest of the car park was full today. The car park is popular with shoppers and uses the “pay on exit” system. The parking spaces could be reinstated and cyclists could choose to use the service road if they wish.
The Esplanade short stay car park was at 80% of its capacity today.
Lots of space at the railway station car park. Suspect that LNER may have missed an opportunity here.?

Lloyds bank in Acomb still open for business

Lloyds Bank in Front Street

Some good news from Acomb with an announcement that the York Road/Front Street branch of Lloyds bank will remain open “until further notice”.

The bank – the last branch in Acomb – was due to close in June.

The decision may help with post pandemic regeneration efforts in the Front Street commercial area.

We suspect that the closure has only been delayed but the decision is a welcome one nevertheless.

How many will lose their jobs in York?

Post COVID-19 economic recovery plans

The Council has revealed that its forecast financial deficit for the current year is around £3.9 million. However, the biggest potential hit on its finances comes from a forecast £16 million loss of Business Rate and Council Tax income. This would be the result of businesses closing and unemployment rising.

The Council has still not identified how expenditure savings may be made nor has it attempted to reduce interest charge payments by trimming its capital programme.

The  York Council economic development  report says how it plans to help the York economy recover from the ravages of lock-down. It updates a previous plan which was criticised for a lack of identified actions, targets, and milestones.

The report says that the impact of the COVID lock down has varied across sectors but is most significant where “serving customers face-to-face is at the heart of the business model – retail, hospitality, cultural attractions and personal services”.

One aspect to the report which may cause concern is the lack of clarity on the medium-term impact on unemployment in the City. It highlights the view of the Local Enterprise Partnership which forecasts the loss of “17,500 jobs, including 6,500 in tourism and 2,400 in retail”. If true, then York would go from having almost full employment to a record 15% level.

The report says that around 15,000 people currently work in the care sector in York.

An alternative forecast, from Oxford Economics, says that if a vaccine is rolled out in 2020 then there will be a  swift return to full employment. A core (more likely) forecast, based on re-openings on the current timetable and gradual lifting of all restrictions, suggests that employment will continue to grow in York despite the impact of the pandemic.

Only a second wave, and renewed lockdowns in autumn 2020, would result in permanent losses of around 3900 jobs.

So it seems, like the population as a whole, the Council doesn’t know what will happen next. The report concludes “What we are already seeing is sharp increases in benefits claims, and we need to plan for at least a short-term spike in job losses”.

Against that background it is possible to have some sympathy for the Council as they decide their short term economic recovery strategy.

One of the few measurable actions arising from the report is a request to central government for a business support grant of £15 million (possibly £10 million depending on which paragraph of the report you read, 51 or 60).

The council will also ask for £10 million for skills training.

Mostly the 1 year plan though is “talking”, “developing”, “working with”, “lobbying” and “facilitating”.

NB. The Council has revealed details of some of its visitor marketing plans. . As reported yesterday, £100,000 will be spent on marketing over the next 5 months.

York Council’s visitor economy plans

£100K proposed investment for new campaign to support York’s Tourism Industry

City of York Council and Make It York are rolling out a new six-month tourism strategy to promote the strengths of the city.

The strategy will encourage residents and visitors to enjoy the many unique experiences the city has to offer.

City of York Council are supporting the campaign with a proposed investment of £100K for targeted marketing activity, which is designed to boost resident and visitor experience , in order to support York’s tourism and leisure industry.  The proposal is to be discussed at a meeting on the Council’s Executive on 23 July 2020.

The strategy, elements of which are already in operation through City of York Council’s ‘Let’s Be York campaign’ and Make It York’s new ‘Feel at Home in York’ campaign, will focus on reenergising the city and telling the story of York’s diverse history.

The £100K investment will include targeted advertising, including digital and radio, press initiatives and new digital content, photography and video, and the curation of a unique programme of events throughout the summer and autumn of 2020. The strategy focuses on building confidence in the city as a safe and welcoming place for residents and visitors to enjoy, as well as promoting York’s special character.

The launch of this new tourism campaign, which is designed to support businesses over the next six months, is the latest in a series of activities to assist businesses across the city in adapting to the challenges posed by Covid-19. Support during the pandemic included business grants, rates relief, advice on funding, skills training and a series of key sector roundtables – as well as ongoing conversations with national government to lobby on behalf of York’s business community for further support.

The proposed activity will launch with a special ‘Our Heroes Welcome’ from 1 August for Yorkshire Day – a week to thank the incredible commitment of the city’s key workers, with a special celebratory cruise held in partnership with City Cruises York with more information will follow.

The tourism marketing strategy is part of the council’s response to support the city recovery from the economic impacts of Covid-19.   The council will discuss plans to deliver a short term one year economic recovery plan, together with the one Year Transport and Place plan already underway at the Executive meeting on 24 July 2020.  More information is here (link)

One of the core elements of the strategy is working collaboratively with businesses including attractions, retail and hospitality to create unique and special experiences designed to attract targeted audiences to the city, and keep them returning to the city. The recovery campaign activity will continue to prioritise public health, aligning with government advice as this develops over the coming months. 

The campaign aims to attract residents as the key audience, as well as visitors from the surrounding regions. Utilising data and insights from locals, businesses and visitors, the plan of activity will continue to be shaped by feedback gathered over the coming months.

The move comes at the same time as the Council confirmed in a response to a Freedom of Information request that it had spent £4.7 million with Make It York during the last 5 years.

Front Street -pressure for investment grows

Some residents have reacted to yesterdays article by saying investment is urgently needed to regenerate the Front Street shopping area. Although the number of empty units is currently relatively low, there are concerns that sub-urban shopping areas may be hard hit during any recession.

Barrier prevents vehicular access during pedestrian hours

Fortunately many Acomb businesses built up a new customer base during the period of lockdown.

Most though failed to benefit for the Councils marketing campaign.

Even today, the only indications of Council support are two small “social distancing” signs.

The rest of the precinct looks neglected with weeds gaining a foothold in many areas.

Weeds growing though footpath surfaces in Front Street

We have asked for action to clean up the existing disabled parking bays. However, what is really needed is a more general a “deep clean” Banners, flowers and display lights could also lift the area. A major marketing campaign could emphasis the value and variety offered by many of the indie outlets in the village.

Something more fundament may be needed. The option to reopen the pedestrianised carriageway to blue badge holders on some days of the week, has received some support. There are three parking laybys in the area which together could accommodate 8 or 9 cars. That could provide a worthwhile increase in footfall.

We’ve asked for the gutters to be cleared of weeds and detritus

The lay-bys could, at other times, provide space for pop up stalls. Some mobile shops might also want to visit the area to add to the variety which si available.

Front Street was at its best, and most popular, when hosting the Minster FM roadshow at Christmas. Although it is too soon to plan for the return of  large crowds, more modest arts and entertainments activities could be staged.

It will require investment by a Council which seems, at the moment, to be entirely preoccupied with the City centre (where, in fairness, traders also faces major hurdles,)

Front Street lay-bys could be used to increase footfall in te area

As a sign of good faith, the York Council could fund a precinct concierge who – as well as regulating access and providing blue badge holders with help with carrying shopping – might also help to keep the area tidy.

In the longer term, a more radical solution could see the pedestrian area extended although this would have far reaching implications not least on some residents and the bus service.

However, the Council does need to explore all options as part of, what it terms as, its “big conversation” with residents.

There should be no delay.

Coronavirus York updates; 5th July 2020

Test results and deaths

The government has revised its stats to show an additional positive test result in the York area on 29th June. This took the cumulative total to 899.

There has still not been any comment from the authorities about the success or otherwise of the contact tracing process in the local area. The next meeting of the York Councils “outbreak management board” is not due to take place for another week.

The cumulative total of deaths at York Trust hospitals remains at 214.

Where is the plan?

Some traders are reporting that takings yesterday were down compared to the previous Saturday.

The Council has been criticised for multiple failures with its parking strategy. It appears that the “phone only” 2 hours free parking was not applied if a shopper tried to pay for an extra hour (they were liable to be billed at full rate for the first 2 hours).

As we said when the scheme first started it was simply to complicated to be understood by casual visitors (even assuming that they had downloaded the mobile RingGo parking app).

Key shoppers car parks like Castle & Marygate were excluded from the scheme.

The Council compounded the problem by saying that the Castle car park would be closed, but without saying when. (They need to forget that idea for at least 12 months. This would give the City centre economy time to recover and for alternatives to become established)

Some traders have suggested that there should be free parking at all car parks from 3:00pm each day. That would at least have the merit of being understandable (and would also help the evening economy).

Shop Local - Serving the WI & IL State Line Area

The Councils’ preferred alternative transport mode – cycling- still suffers from a lack of secure parking. This is also an acute issue at some suburban shopping locations.

The provision of additional “social distancing” space – at the expense of highways and car parking – has been largely random. In most cases like Marygate car park the provision has mostly been ignored by users.

In others, contraflow cycle lanes have introduced additional hazards.

All in all then, the lack of a thought through recovery strategy is becoming of more concern each day.

Marketing alone will not be enough.

In an occasional lucid moment the York Council has displayed some advertising flair. Not least with the widely applauded “Don’t be a Tosser” anti litter campaign.

They may also say that people are right to be very cautious about visiting busy locations. They would be right in saying that safety must come first.

But that doesn’t excuse the absence of a 3 – 6 month revitalisation strategy.

Press Archives - Keep Streets Live!

As regulations allow; arts, music, poetry, comedy and sports should come to open spaces throughout the City. Sub-urban areas and villages must be included. Most shops, takeaways, restaurants and hairdressers in those areas have now reopened.

They – like the arts – have had little support from the authorities.

A festival atmosphere would provide a huge lift for the morale of residents and visitors alike. It should encompass large visitor magnets like the Minster, Museums and Guildhalls.

But it does needs to start quickly now.

Quiet time for shoppers in York today

The first Saturday since shops reopened in York saw modest numbers of customers returning.

Parliament Street was quiet this afternoon with few queues
Similar picture on Goodramgate
and Kings Square
Ice cream vans attracted a queue
and a Busker
One sign of a return to “normality”. Gangs of youths cycling the wrong way down footstreets doing “wheelies”.
Some shoppers headed for the out of town centres. The Cr park at Tesco Clifton Moor was about half full.

Businesses reminded to apply for small and micro grant scheme

City of York Council is reminding eligible businesses that there is still time to apply for the upgraded small and micro grant scheme, which has been created to support local businesses.

Payments have already been made to 121 businesses, with more being paid each week. Businesses have until 30 June to apply for the scheme.

Grants payments between £1,000 and £10,000 will support small businesses, including those in shared offices and flexible work spaces, science parks and incubators, regular market traders without a business rates assessment, nurseries, B&Bs paying council tax instead of business rates, and charity properties which missed out under previous schemes are now eligible.

Small business and childcare nurseries                                          up to  £10,000
Micro business                                                             up to    £5000
B&Bs and market traders who live in York                    up to   £2,500
Self-employed with fixed property costsup to    £1,000

To apply, businesses must have been trading before 11 March 2020, have a rateable value or annual mortgage of below £51,000, and demonstrate both an ongoing fixed property cost and significant financial impact of the coronavirus. It is not available to any business eligible for any other government COVID grant.

Grant payments are being processed in batches, with the first batch paid on Friday 5 June. The council is also telling businesses that have applied not to worry if they don’t receive their payment this weekend – there will be further payments every Friday over the next three weeks.

Businesses can check eligibility and apply at www.york.gov.uk/COVIDMicroGrant .

The council is using an additional £2.2m discretionary government fund to expand its own small and micros grant scheme, which has already supported over 3,000 local businesses affected by coronavirus.

The council acted quickly to distribute £110m of grants and rates relief to over 4000 York businesses, and created its own £1m grant scheme to support over 1000 more businesses which did not qualify for government support.

Under the discretionary fund, local authorities have been given an additional 5% of the total value of grants already distributed in York, together with some government rules and outline guidance on which businesses should benefit. However, this means councils have to use local knowledge to decide how to fairly distribute the money, as to benefit as many businesses as possible in the city.

Companies that are in financial difficulties because they fall outside the Government set limits are asked to contact Make it York to discuss their options. They can email business@makeityork.com