“Visionary” needed at York Council – no pay


Hot on the heels of yesterdays decision to appoint internally to a £70,000 a year “non-job”, the York Council is now trying to find someone who will work for free.

Applicants who are prepared to work for at least 2 or 3 days a week without pay to establish a new company aimed at promoting the City, only have until 7th January to do so.

Advertising any sort of opportunity over the festive period pretty much minimises the likely field so the suspicion will arise that someone’s name is already” in the frame”.

The Council says that it and partners including Visit York are looking to recruit a ‘visionary’ transitional chair to lead the creation of a new agency which will be responsible for marketing, tourism, cultural and business development for the city of York.

Reporting to CYC initially and working closely with partners including Visit York, Science City York and the two universities, as well as members of the private sector and the cultural community, the transitional chair will be an ambassador for the new agency. He or she will lead the creation of the new board and executive team and will also produce a five-year business strategy for the agency to deliver new branding, generate cultural activity, build the business and leisure visitor economy and support business development.

The post holder will be paid expenses. How the post fits into the Councils living wage policy is a mystery.

Details click here

Unemployment down again in York

Unemployment levels fell again last month across the country.

In York the number claiming job seekers allowance has fallen to 1.6% of the population.  That is down from 2.10% in November last year.

Employment trends click to enlarge

Employment trends click to enlarge

A total of 2133 York residents were claiming Job seekers allowance last month. This figure is likely to increase in January as seasonal jobs come to an end.

The lowest ever unemployed numbers were recorded in 2004 when only 1.2% were looking for jobs.

The change reflects an improving economy. The trend in the City almost exactly mirrors the national picture.

Nationally unemployment has dropped by 0.8 percentage points over the last year.

In York the improvement has been less at 0.6 percentage points.

At the last York Council, meeting the Labour Leadership tried to claim that the change was due to their decision to borrow and spend a £28 million Economic Infrastructure Fund. The Fund was started early in 2012.

However, by that time. unemployment had fallen from a peak of 4134 to 3682; a trend that continued.

The only quick way for the public sector to create jobs quickly  is – as Hitler and Mussolini demonstrated – by spending on public works (autobahns etc).  Such a short term policy does increase the number of construction jobs for a time at least.

The only work of this kind announced by the Council is the so called “bridge to nowhere” at the York Central site. Work on this won’t start for another couple of years at least.

The rest has been squandered on a plethora of uncoordinated initiatives ranging from “free” public WiFi to arts barges and the like.

The only direct effect that the present Council could claim to have had on the local economy is the creation of around 100 apprentice posts at the Council. These post were more than outweighed by job losses incurred as public service standards were been slashed.

The legacy will of course be a huge increase in the debt burden of each resident living in the City.

Vince Cable launches business survey in York

Vince Cable launching York Business survey

Vince Cable launching York Business survey

York born Business Secretary Vince Cable visited the city on Saturday to officially launch a major new business survey.

The Liberal Democrat survey looks at how local businesses can be supported and what more can be done to encourage employers to take on apprentices. It also asks businesses for their views on the Labour run Council’s decision to close Lendal Bridge and issues such as tax, barriers to taking on new staff and the impact of EU membership. The survey will initially be delivered to over 500 businesses across York in the coming weeks.

Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, commented:

“I am delighted to support this effort to engage with local businesses in York. It is crucial that we listen to what employers are saying and ensure that everything is being done to support businesses locally as well as understanding the impact on the ground of national issues.

Speaking on the efforts to encourage employers to take-on apprentices, Vince Cable commented:

“Apprenticeships are one of this Government’s top priorities. Practical, technical and vocational skills should be valued as equals to academic achievement. Since 2010 1.2 million new apprenticeships have helped young people into work including over 4,000 in York. We need to continue this progress by highlighting successful schemes and by understanding what more can be done to encourage local employers to take on apprentices.”

As part of the survey the York Lib Dems will be establishing a new Local Business Forum. This will give employers in York an opportunity to discuss the local economy and the impact of City of York Council policies.

£1million scheme to connect York small businesses with super fast broadband


A broadband connection voucher scheme is being launched in York early next year to provide Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs up to 250 employees) better quality, high speed broadband.


Funded through Government’s ‘Super Connected Cities’ programme and City of York Council, the vouchers will provide assistance of up to £3,000 per business for SMEs seeking faster and better broadband (of at least 30 Mbits) to support them in growing their business.

The York voucher scheme is just one element in York’s strategy to become the best connected digital city of its size in the UK. The city launched the world’s first city tour application which uses ‘hologram tourist guides’ for visitors and proposals are well advanced to provide wi-fi in the city centre during the first half of 2014.

York Lib Dems welcome plans to help businesses employ young people

Nicjk Clegg and young person

The drive to help young people get jobs in York will be boosted by plans to abolish employers’ National Insurance Contributions (NICs) for under 21-years-olds, York’s Lib Dem Group Leader Cllr Keith Aspden said today.

The news means businesses will no longer have to pay tax on their employees aged under 21-years-old. For example, companies will save £1,000 each year for every young employee earning £16,000.

In York the plan to abolish NICs for young people from April 2015 means companies will not have to pay the contributions for 5,750 young people.


Shopper numbers down 10% in York City Centre.

285,000 fewer people have visited the Parliament Street area since new traffic restrictions were introduced in August.

Shambles empty
The number of visitors to the City has dropped dramatically since the new restrictions were introduced on Coppergate and on Lendal Bridge.

The latest figures have been released by the York Council following a Freedom of Information request

In total, footfall cameras on Parliament Street recorded 2.695 million people between 1st August and the start of the St Nicholas Fayre on 28th November.

The equivalent figure for 2012 was 2.980 million, a fall of 10%.

Figures recovered over the 4 days of the St Nicholas Fayre although the concentration of footfall may have been influenced by the positioning of the market.

The figures are even more disappointing given the relatively good weather that we have experienced so far this autumn.

They confirm that the new restrictions are having a major adverse effect on the economic viability of many retailers in the City centre.

The Council has previously resisted calls for the restrictions to be suspended at least until the busy pre Christmas period is over.

  • The detailed figures are:
  • August 746,340 visitors (780,646 in 2012 – 4%)
  • September 699,042 (798,182 – 12%)
  • October 717,634 (775,144 – 7%)
  • November 532,157 (646,226 -18%) to start of St Nicholas Fayre on 28th November

By contrast, in the first 7 months of the year, visitor numbers had fallen by a total of 5% with the decrease being blamed on a large increase in car parking charges.

A spreadsheet showing individual figures for each day can be found by clicking here.

A Council survey on residents and visitors reactions to the traffic restrictions can be found here



A bridge too near?

The promised report on Labour plans for a new £10 million bridge near Wilton Rise has now been published.

It turns out that £1.5 million of this will be spent on consultant’s fees.

Housing numbers. click to enlarge

Housing numbers. click to enlarge

The report claims that the costs of the bridge would be repaid “from the additional income in Business Rates and Council Tax generated by the new developments” (on the York central site).

It then goes on to claim that 1083 new homes will be provided. That is a surprise because the draft Local Plan published by Labour in April assumed only 438 homes would be constructed on this site.

However, the housing numbers included in the Labour draft Local Plan have already been undermined with actual planning applications submitted, and approved, over the last 6 months being in every case higher than the Plan estimate
Therefore a much higher housing figure is a legitimate target for the York central site.

The present coalition government policy does encourage development and allows local authorities to retain and invest, for 6 years, additional Council Tax monies generated by new homes (New Homes Bonus).

Business Rates have also been “localised”. So an increase in income from additional commercial buildings would increase the amount that the Council receives from Business Rates. However government grants, which seek to equalise Council income between “prosperous” and less well off areas, could be reduced.

No business case of any sort has been provided for the meeting next week.

In addition to the homes, the “plan” talks about “building 93,000 sq m of office space with ancillary bar, restaurant, retail and leisure uses” in 2015.

A further 35,000 sq m would be built in 2019 in the form on a commercial area “in front of the station” and would include a new hotel although most would be more offices.

Of course, any incremental development in the City provides similar increases in Council income plus more jobs and homes.

Residents might have expected any income to be earmarked to pay for repairs to the public services in the City which have deteriorated so badly over the last 3 years.

Public consultation results - York central access options

Public consultation results – York central access options

Incredibly, the Council is being asked to earmark the £10 million without a development “Masterplan” being in place.

As a result no planning permission exists for the development.

The absence of a business plan is the major problem at present. It remains unclear how the site clean up will be funded (it is heavily polluted) nor is there any guarantee that other transport infrastructure needs can be financed.

From the information, that has been made available, it does seem that the Councils investment will not be underwritten in any way.

It is therefore a very high risk venture.

There is no proposal to form a joint development company which would allow Council Taxpayers to share in the success of any development (to offset the substantial risk)

The legal restrictions – which apply across Europe – on subsidising private companies are not explored in the paper.

Like the sale of the Haymarket car park on Hungate – for around 50% of its current open market value – the Council is being both naïve and reckless with taxpayers money. The promised offices and hotel on Hungate have yet to move forward and so have provided no economic stimulus for the City.

The “Bridge to Nowhere” could well be a similar embarrassment.

With the national economy improving, and some local developers reflecting the more buoyant approach in the City, less risky ways to kick start important developments like York Central should be considered.

Alexander resigns from City centre role.

York City centre "to let"

York City centre “to let”

The Councils Leader is standing down from the chair of the “City Team York” group which was established in response to the national effort to improve the fortunes of the high street.

The move follows months of protests from City centre traders who have seen shopper numbers fall in the wake of the new traffic restrictions and huge increases in car parking charges introduced by the Labour led Council.

Launched in August last year, the group is made up of retailers, the city council and a range of professional and businesses organisations from across the city centre with a remit to improve business growth, resilience and economic vitality.

It replaced a City centre traders group which had worked closely with the Council for many years with the introduction of a cheap “shoppers car park” on Fossbank one of its achievements.

An advert for a new private sector chair has been published.

Closing date for applications is 31st December 2013 and full details for any business person who would be interested in applying for this voluntary post may be found here: http://www.yorkmeansbusiness.co.uk/updates/city-team-york-chair.aspx

Small Business Saturday Bus comes to York tomorrow (Tuesday!)

Small business saturday

On Tuesday 19 November, York will be the first calling point, and the only one in the North of England, of the nationwide bus tour promoting the first ever Small Business Saturday in the UK.

St Sampsons Square 11:00am – 2:00pm

Small Business Saturday is on 7 December, and is all about encouraging everyone in the UK to support small businesses.

Events and promotions are being held throughout the country on what is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. T

he Prime Minister, the government and all major political parties are endorsing the day.


Boost for unemployed youth in York

Major cities in England will receive government cash to invest over the next 3 years to help young people into lasting employment.

Nick Glegg

Nick Glegg

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Cities Minister Greg Clark are announcing investment from a pot of government cash given to England’s major cities to invest over the next 3 years, with the aim of helping more than 25,000 young people into jobs that last.

£4.6 million will be invested in the Leeds City Region to provide intensive, targeted wraparound support for at risk and long-term unemployed young people, an innovative pilot looking at the role that Employment Agencies can play in helping young people into work and the creation of a new Young Ambassador Scheme to offer peer mentoring, support and advice to young people

There are more people in work today than ever before. Since 2010 the government has helped to create over 1.4 million jobs in the private sector and over 1 million apprenticeships have started since the election.

Since April 2012, over 136,000 young people have started a work experience placement through the Youth Contract.

On 30 July the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Minister for Cities Greg Clark launched a competition for cities to design trailblazing initiatives to boost youth employment using £50m of funding from the Youth Contract scheme.