So how did the first days shopping go around York

Neighbourhoods

Local shopping streets like Foxwood Lane/Beagle Ridge Drive mostly continued trading through the lock-down. All but the hairdressers are open. No problems with parking today and a few shoppers around at lunchtime

Coop on Beagle Ride Drive has been popular throughout the lock-down period
Secondary shopping area

Acomb is York’s second largest shopping area. Its focal store (Morrisons) has remained open throughout the pandemic and has undertaken an increased number of home deliveries

Acomb Car park about 505 full at lunchtime today
Most shops in Acomb have reopened. Exceptions are hairdressers, a charity outlet and cafes (although outside/takeaway service available.
A “nail bar” will open ins an empty unit shortly
Specialist shopping streets

Bishopthorpe Road has established a reputation for itself as a bijou shopping destination with good quality independents predominating. It became mired in controversy a few weeks ago when local Councillors campaigned successfully for the road to be closed to southbound vehicles. It is unclear how this has affected trade but the area was generally quiet today at lunchtime. Road works start on nearby Nunnery Lane this evening. Most shops are open. There was limited space in the dedicated car park

The contraflow cycle “lane” is controversial. The existing northbound cycle lane has been abandoned.
The bollards were placed on the road to encourage social distancing.
Road works starting this evening

We’ll take a separate look at how the first day of the city centre shopping arrangements have gone.

Time to turn the clock forward?

Many people have regarded the last 4 months as a lost period in their lives. Many will be trying to get a sense of normality back from tomorrow when, shops viewed by the government as “non essential”, will be able to open.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of what happens over the next 4 months as far the the City’s prosperity is concerned.

Either we will see a “bounce” or the start of an irrevocable decline.

Impossible to predict at present. But the slogan “shop local” has an added significance now

Will the clock on Coney Street – stuck on 12;00 o’clock for months start again tomorrow?
Social distancing signs already in place. Parking will be banned on Blake Street
Coppergate will become one way although the Council have yet to confirm when the restriction will start.
NB. The Council hasn’t updated its list of ANPR enforced fines, for those misusing Coppergate, since last October https://www.york.gov.uk/downloads/file/229/coppergate-warnings-and-pcns-issued
Castle car park will close. The Council haven’t said from what date
There will also be around 60 fewer parking spaces at Marygate car park as a result of a (misjudged) attempt to encourage cyclists to ride through the area. An alternate plan would have achieved the same objective while losing only 1 space. Marygate is also a popular car park for shoppers. The photo – which shows zero use by pedestrians and cyclists – was taken on Friday lunchtime.
Market stalls and food outlets have been operating for a few days now
Last chance to see a people free St Helen’s Square (traders hope)?
Taxpayers will be able to see how £20 million of their money is being spent on work at the Guildhall
£350,000 of taxpayers money is also being spent replacing finger signposts (background) with “modern” direction signs (foreground). The Council has admitted that it doesn’t expect tourist visitor numbers to recover much before next April.
We’ve reported graffiti which disfigures walls in Post Office Lane near the station

So where is York heading post COVID

There are signs of life in some organisations in the City as they begin to address the harsh post COVID realities.

The Council has issued business recovery kits which may aid social distancing particularity in shops.

The move comes on the day when the Centre for City’s releases details of how the health crisis has impacted on visitor numbers to the City centre. Not surprisingly the profile has changed radically with those travelling from the suburbs (both as shoppers and workers) now in the majority.

This will come as no surprise as foreign tourist numbers are, and are likely to remain, negligible. The next three months will be crucial for many retail and tourist businesses in the City.

The City is middle ranking so far in how well is is recovering its high street “footfall” compared to other Cities. It has a recovery index of 24 compared to the least affected (Aldershot with a score of 57 and the worst Cardiff with 11).

But it is early days and a more general return to work next Monday will tell us more.

So what needs to be done?

Clearly York’s visitor economy is going to depend, at least in the short term, on people travelling to the City from within Yorkshire. They will need to feel safe if they are to be persuaded to come.

It is vitally important therefore that such large spaces as exist in the City centre are fully utilised.

We understated that there are events planned for Parliament Street but it is less clear what use it will be made of assets like the Museum Gardens, Deans Park and the Nave of the Minster. Indeed, imaginative programming at the Minster – which could safely accommodate over a thousand people during periods of poor weather – may be vitally important in any marketing strategy.

All could potentially accommodate Arts events while maintaining social distancing rules.

York Minster and Duncombe Place, York
Duncombe Place

The Council has already listed streets which will be pedestrianised.

Incredibly it failed to include Deangate, one of the widest streets in the City and which could – together with the Minster and Deans Park- provide an ideal events space. Events held there would complement those planned for the other side of the City to the benefit traders and attractions in the Stonegate neighbourhood.

In the longer term better use will need to be made of the river banks and the City Walls but, for a few weeks at least, the City will need to concentrate on promoting itself as a vibrant, safe and welcoming destination.

It is time now for Make it York, the Council , the theatres, museums, libraries and other organisations to publish their short and medium term regeneration proposals?

More help for York small and micro businesses announced

York Council has issued more details of a £1 million scheme to support businesses falling through safety net of government support

  • 1000 businesses are set for grants of up to £1000, with up to 1000 set for free access to FSB support
  • Council acting to put £110 m of government support into York businesses’ accounts – first grants to land in bank accounts next week

City of York Council has released details of further support for York businesses, including its £1 million scheme to help York’s small and micro businesses who are set to miss out on government support.

City of York Council’s micro business grants scheme will deliver grants of up to £1000 to 1000 self-employed, micro and small businesses who need it most. 

Applications for the grants will open before Easter, and will be available to businesses which:

  • have 50 or fewer employees, including one person business/self-employed;
  • need support adapting to new trading arrangements;
  • are experiencing financial hardship due to coronavirus, and
  • do not qualify for any other government grant or rate relief support packages.

In addition, the council has created a new fund to give up to 1000 businesses free membership of the Federation of Small Business. Also set to launch before Easter, these will be available to businesses with 30 or fewer employees. This will give each business access to a range of services, covering everything from legal and advice to cyber protection and insurance.

Grants will be issued to the first 1000 businesses which meet the criteria, so businesses are advised to prepare evidence in advance.

 The council will open an online application form, which will require company details, an outline of what the grant is needed for and the following evidence to demonstrate eligibility:

  1. proof of hardship and ineligibility for other schemes
    • for self-employed applicants: Business must have a Unique Tax Reference Number UTRN from HRMC with retrospective check
    • Registered business – must provide Company Number, or details from other registration schemes
  2. Evidence that the business is trading, for example adverts, web site or accounts

The council will contact businesses to review the effectiveness of grants and collect evidence of the impact of our funding. 

The council has also negotiated a deal which will allow 1,000 one person businesses, or 500 ten person businesses to join and access the free helpline for business advice.

Carolyn Frank, Development Manager North Yorkshire, Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“We are seeing more demand than ever for our services as small businesses and the self-employed find themselves needing advice and guidance, financial support and a powerful collective voice with government.

“We are very grateful to City of York Council for funding free FSB memberships for microbusinesses from their emergency funding, which is helping us reach even more businesses in York with specialist 1-2-1 advice and support.

“Our benefits in higher than normal demand due to the emergency situation include employment advice and protection, legal helpline and documents hub, FSB care medical advice line, cyber protection checks, FSB funding platform and cash advance and insurance services. 

“I’d encourage businesses to apply quickly to take advantage of this special scheme, because it is strictly limited to first come, first served. Of course businesses who miss out on the free scheme can still ask for our help, we have many free resources and a full priced membership starts from only £147 a year.” 

Move to help self employed through crisis

City of York Council, Make It York and other cultural leaders in York have written to Oliver Dowden MP, Secretary of State to ensure that those who are self-employed are not forgotten.

There are approximately 12,000 self employed people in the city currently who will be needed during the economic recovery and should be included in the Governments plans.

In addition, York is recognised across the world as a city rich with a diverse culture. In 2019 the EU’s Cultural and Creative Cities monitor awarded York the most “culturally vibrant” city in the UK, and seventh best in Europe for medium size cities.

Cllr Darryl Smalley, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Communities at City of York Council, said:

“The cultural, creative and voluntary sectors are the life-blood of our communities. Across York, they support our wellbeing, enrich our lives and have vast economic benefits to our city.

That’s why along with Make It York and York Museums Trust and other city leaders, I have written to Oliver Dowden MP.  We have welcomed the positive measures announced by the Government which go a large way to ensuring we get through this pandemic.  However, a third of the UK’s creative workforce is self-employed, and the artists and creative practitioners in those sectors will be seriously affected by loss of income due to the pandemic.”

Nationally, the creative industries contributed £111.7bn to the UK economy in 2018, and grew five times faster than the wider economy.  It is important that moving forward, the Government works quickly to provide reassurance and support to these sectors, so that they are able to bounce back once this crisis has passed.”

Cllr Andrew Waller, Executive Member for Economy and Strategic Planning, added:

“It is of some reassurance the government has recognised the need to support small and medium businesses during this crisis, and the new Government loans will go some way to alleviate short term cash flow issues.

However, supporting our self-employed residents is essential to our local economy.  We don’t know yet what the full implications of COVID-19 will be, but we do know that more assistance must be provided to the self-employed, so that they are supported during this difficult time.”

For more information visit https://www.york.gov.uk/BusinessSupport

Council details support available for local businesses

The York Council issued information for local businesses earlier today. They promise to update it regularly as national announcements are being made with increasing frequency.

For example the closure of restaurants and pubs mean that many may now wish to trade on a takeaway/home delivery basis.

The Council recently substantially increased its debt burden when it bought various retail buildings in the City so it has a vested interest in ensuring local businesses survive the current problems!

Click here for a link to the full statement

So just how busy is the York City centre?

Footfall camera in Stonegate

It emerged a few weeks ago that most of the “footfall” cameras in York City centre are not working correctly.

The data from the cameras is used to help plan economic regeneration activities in the City centre.

The cameras do not currently provide any intelligence on who those users are, how they are using the space, or how much they are spending.

The cameras are located in

  • Stonegate
  • Coney Street
  • Parliament Street
  • Micklegate
  • Church Street

A new Council report says, “Footfall counts are provided under contract through a network of cameras at five points across the City Centre in a long-standing contractual arrangement with the data intelligence service provider, Springboard. The company uses its bespoke software to analyse camera data and count people passing those locations. Most of these cameras are not functioning for a number of reasons, meaning loss of consistency in data provision”.

Some of the cameras have not been functioning mostly as a result of interruption to power supply.

Critically two of the most important cameras (those in Coney Street and Stonegate) have not been working since last summer. The Church Street camera hasn’t been operational since June 2017.

The camera on Parliament Street is located at a point where data is compromised when last events like fairs are staged in the area.

In effect, the Council and local traders have no idea how many people visited the City during the important Christmas period in comparison to previous years.

Extrapolation of other data suggested that footfall may have been down by as much as 10% compared to the previous year. Clearly though there were some days when some streets in  the City centre had reached their effective capacity.

The report says “Anecdotally, we are aware that some City Centre businesses use these figures as a guide to buying stock and hiring additional staff, so there is an additional knock on effect at a commercial level”.

More information is available in Bath

A meeting next week is being advised to extend the current contract for another 12 moths while looking at other options.  The City will investigate what is done in other City’s with Bath being evidenced.

The report fails to identify how much the cameras are costing the Council or what the cost of the contract extension will be.

It seems surprising that most of the cameras could be out of service for 9 months without the issue being recognised and remedial action being taken by the Council.

York Council aims to boost small business economy

With hardly a day going by without another retailer or café announcing the closure of premises in York City centre, the council will review its regeneration plans next week.

Last year £300,000 was allocated to promote what was styled as an “Inclusive Growth Initiatives Fund”. It was aimed at making sure that everyone could benefit from a strong local economy.

An update  report published yesterday says that the York economy is performing strongly. There are now more people in work than ever before, and average wages are higher than the rest of the region. 14,000 work in high skilled jobs.

Details can be found by clicking here

Eight initiatives were identified for investment and financial allocations are now being proposed

  • Establishing a York Poverty Commission: (similar to one operating in Leeds). £20k
  • Community hubs as drivers of economic growth (There are a hubs operating in Foxwood and Chapelfields): £40k
  • Greening our retail estate: £70k
  • Community jobs fairs: £30k
  • 14+ vocational training and work: £50k
  • Independent retail growth fund (using the success of the Bishy Road Traders campaign as a model): £40k
  • Mental health, wellbeing and employment: £25k
  • York Economic Strategy consultation: £25k

The Council report concludes, “Inclusive growth cannot have neighbourhoods that are left behind, opportunities that are only selectively available, or a two-tier economy where some people are doing well at the expense of others who are not”.

That may be good news for the poorer parts of York who feel that the quality of public services available locally has deteriorated in recent years.  

This is not least a result of the York Council being stubbornly insensitive to the effect that  closing leisure and sports facilities is having on vulnerable communities.

Greg Dyke to take over at “Make it York”

The “Make it York” (MIY) Quango is to get a new chair with former York University Chancellor Greg Dyke set to replace Jane Gibson.

Fossgate Festival Make It York

A council report says, “an open, objective and rigorous recruitment process was undertaken supported by specialist head-hunters, Perrett Laver. The role was advertised through the Guardian jobs. Over 100 individuals were involved and these were shortlisted down to a final four. Following an interview with a panel of city stakeholders Mr Dyke emerged as the preferred candidate”

Mr Dyke holds non-executive roles with the London Film School (Chair), Trafalgar Entertainment Group (Chair), BAFTA (Vice President) and was previously Chair of the Football Association, the Ambassador Theatre Group and the British Film Institute amongst others.

His executive career included spells as Chief Executive of London Weekend Television and Director General of the BBC. He knows the city well having been Chancellor of the University of York for 11 years, and has very senior-level experience of working across a number of sectors.

The new Chair will join the organisation at a difficult time. Other tourism bodies (MIY supervises the work of “Visit York”) like “Welcome to Yorkshire” have been criticised for having a cavalier approach to the use of public funds.

MIY itself has been involved in wrangles with local traders and is often accused of a lack of transparency in its processes.

It is 100% owned by the City of York Council.

A review of governance arrangement is overdue.

Year 11 York students offered apprenticeship taster

City of York Council’s Apprenticeship Hub is inviting Year 11 students to apply for a place on the second city-wide Apprenticeship Taster Day, following the successful launch earlier this year.

Taking place on Thursday 16 January 2020, 14 local employers are offering apprenticeship tasters to over 100 year 11 students from York secondary schools.

The taster day gives students the opportunity to experience what it would be like to be an apprentice in a variety of sectors, including finance, data science, hospitality, early years, rail engineering, marketing and construction.

The employers hosting students on the day will include; Network Rail, Aviva, City of York Council, Garbutt & Elliott, Portakabin, Toni & Guy and a variety of early years settings.

The application form is available from york.gov.uk/yorkapprenticeships and must be submitted by Friday 13 December.

For more information contact the York Apprenticeship Hub, email: york.apprenticeships@york.gov.uk or 01904 553732 or visit the York Apprenticeships webpage: www.york.gov.uk/yorkapprenticeships.