The York Council says that it still faces a £20.4 million budget shortfall as a result of the COVID crisis.
The figures will be presented to a meeting next week They vary little from what has previously been published with the bulk of the shortfall (£16 million) being in anticipated reductions in Council Tax and Business Rate income following a rise in unemployment levels. .
The biggest hit is expected during the next financial year when the Councils reserves will hit a low point.
There is still little evidence that the council is controlling its expenditure levels. There has been no freeze on new expenditure commitments.
One encouraging trend is in visitor numbers in the City centre.
Officials say that use is now at 80% of car park capacity.
Footfall is at 70% of normal levels. This is higher than in other cities (50%) and bears out our own observations.
Use of public transport is still much reduced.
Despite the obvious increasing demand for car parking there is no mention in the report about the controversial decision to take 40 spaces at Marygate out of use.
Nor is there any acknowledgement that the number of spaces allocated for disabled use at Monk Bar is excessive. Most there are never used.
These spaces could be generating additional income for the Council and, of course, their occupants would be likely to be spending in local shops, restaurants and visitor attractions.
The income loss to the Council from the 70 unused spaces is estimated to be £5000 a week.
The Council says that changed highways layouts have “largely been well received”. They base this claim on the responses to a survey question (“big conversation”) where 62% said that they agreed with the extension of the “foot-streets”.
This may be so, but the council failed to include questions in its survey about individual actions like the reduction in car parking provision. Without such feedback, it is impossible to judge which of the changes enjoys popular support.
There is no acknowledgement that faulty car park ticket machines and unreliable advanced space availability signs remain an issue.
The Council is promising to consult with disabled residents about their transport needs. It will spend £25,000 doing so.
As usual the suburban and secondary shopping areas are ignored by officials.
There is clearly an economic opportunity for areas like Acomb if they can attract those who feel let down by some of the travel restrictions.
Opening Front Street to blue badge holders, on one or two days a week, would cost little but could stimulate footfall in what is another another beleaguered trading area.
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.
Anyone hoping that the Councils postCOVID strategy document would be a stimulating read may be disappointed.
A series of papers have now been published which are long on hyperbole but very short on tangible actions
Those hoping for a series of initiatives, incorporating measurable deliverables and with specific key milestones, will search in vain amongst the papers for the Executive meeting which is taking place on 25th June.
The expectation was that clear actions would be identified to take the City through the next 3 months at least. Only the half-hearted free parking initiative fits into that narrative.
Nor has any more up to date information been provided on the nature of the Councils financial crisis. The papers simply continue to wave the shroud of an £24 million – largely unspecified – shortfall.
Additional spending is proposed on;
Supporting local businesses including the tourism sector (£100,000),
“Communities Recovery” (£250,000),
Creating places in which visitors can safely return to the City (£530,000),
Changing building access and deep cleaning (£50,000) and
ICT equipment to allow continued remote working (£500,000).
There is no mention of a freeze on new expenditure.
The report merely reports windfall savings on climate change, waste services, northern forest and local transport plan. All are the result of (unavoidable) delays caused by the lock-down.
The Council says that its capital investment programme is being “reviewed”. That means that the Council is continuing to slip further and further into debt.
The Council promises that it will have a “Big Conversation” with residents over the next 12 months.
Residents may choose to opt for something a little more robust.
Latest unemployment figures show only 1.3% are out of work in York.
This is significantly below the national figure of 2.7%.
There are 676 York job vacancies registered on the governments “find a job” website today. Some have been unfilled for several months now. The number of vacancies exceeds the number of people claiming job seekers allowance (550).
The latest Job Densityfigures available confirm that there were more jobs available than in other parts of the country
Great Britain 0.86
!Density figures represent
the ratio of total jobs to population aged 16-65)
Most York jobs these days are in the retail, tourism, education
and social care sectors.
The high number of job vacancies is likely to inhibit growth prospects for the York economy
Figures published by ONS last month on wage levels in the city caused a panic with some commentators.
The figures suggested that median wage levels in the City had fallen by 9.4% compared to the previous year.
But had they?
According to ONS gross wages were £384.10. The previous year – on the back of an unlikely 5.6% increase – the median wage had been £423.80?
So had workers really seen a £40 a week drop in earnings?
If so, what went wrong?
Most people seem to have forgotten that the published figures are provisional. The final figures will not be available until later in the year. The figures are based on a sample of returns from employers. The sample size changes. ONS advised caution in using short term figures to demonstrate a trend.
As well as the reduction in wages, the ONS figures also say that the City also saw a drop of 3000 in the number of jobs. Against the background of a record high (and stable) number in employment in the York, that alone suggests a sampling error.
Looking beyond gross pay, a further breakdown indicates that the fall had mainly been down to a reduction in overtime payments. Given the uncertainty in the market as a result of BREXIT, it would not be surprising if there was a slowing down in economic activity. Less overtime would be an obvious symptom of a more cautious approach to investment
However, the most likely explanation for the blip, is that the figures are just plain wrong!
Newly published statistics from the ONS reveal that York now has the highest number of jobs ever seen in the city.
It was revealed that York had a 5% growth in its employment over 2017, leading to an increase of 5,000 new jobs, leaping from 101,000, to 106,000.
Across the region, employment increased on average by 2%, with York seeing the largest increase with 5%. These figures put York in the top 10% performing local authorities in England for employment growth. For example, the city’s employment growth was stronger than Nottingham, Manchester, Leeds and Cambridge.
Om review, 500 jobs were created in the manufacturing sector, 1,000 in professional scientific and technical businesses and 1,000 in food and drink businesses.
Cllr Keith Aspden, Liberal Democrat Executive Member for Economic Development and Community Engagement, said:
“I am delighted to see that York’s economy is continuing to grow, despite the economic pressures felt elsewhere in the UK.”
“With such an impressive growth in the city’s employment, our residents will continue to benefit from a range of opportunities here in the city.”
“We will continue to work with partners to ensure that York remains a fantastic place to live, work and visit. The ONS figures are a testament to the progress we have made.”
The latest unemployment figures for York (9th March) show that there were 380 men and 247 women claiming job seekers allowance.. That is 26 fewer than at the same date a year earlier and represents 0.5% of the working population.
The Yorkshire average is 1.6% and for the UK is 1.3%.
The total number of benefit (Universal Credit) claimants was 1040. This represented 0.8% of the working population, and was an increase of 10 over the same period in the previous year.
ONS statistics released today show an increase of 15 residents claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and Universal Credit claimants (out of work) in November compared to last month’s figures meaning there are now 955 claimants in the city.
However this is a decrease of 45 residents from November 2015.
The figures show a 19.4 per cent fall in the number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance in the past twelve months.
The Jobseekers Allowance claimant count for York represents 0.4 per cent of the working population which contrasts to the regional average which stands at 1.5 per cent. The figures are also much lower than the national average which stands at 1.2 per cent. (more…)