The Labour Group on City of York Council are calling for an Emergency Plan for skills training, green jobs and more local purchasing as the city experiences a deep economic shock linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. In York, 55 retail outlets have closed during the crisis, more than in any other part of the country. Even before the pandemic, figures showed that York had experienced the biggest real terms wage drop of any city in the whole country from £519 to £512 in 2018-19.
Councillor Claire Douglas, Labour’s spokesperson on the economy, has said that these statistics barely registered with ruling Lib-Dem and Green councilors .
“We are facing a cliff edge,” she said, “with pressure on businesses and job losses increasing every day. The latest national measures to support business are inadequate and leave out major sectors like non-essential retail and self-employed business owners. The Office of National Statistics predicts that unemployment in York could hit between 11% and 27%.
“Yet the council is sleepwalking into a crisis. More than 30,300 people are currently on furlough in York – mainly in hospitality and retail – 70% of which are women. Simply processing Government payments to businesses isn’t enough – the Council needs a much broader and more forward-looking plan for economic recovery”.
Labour produced a number of proposals for the city’s economy this summer, including measures to create a safer, cleaner and greener city with more secure, better paid jobs, more affordable housing and extra spaces for our children to play and explore. The proposals recommended building on York’s strengths in innovation, digital technology and the creative and cultural industries.
“Lib Dems and Greens running the city failed to take the majority of these ideas seriously,” she stated. “We offered to work constructively with them on the new City Skills and Employment Board, but only weeks after voting to work more collaboratively cross-party, they have blocked Labour’s involvement on this Board. Ruling councillors seem more concerned with presentation and control than working collaboratively with people with knowledge and skills in this area for the long-term good of the city.
“The pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the economic fortunes of the city, so we need more than ever to see a vision for a fairer, more prosperous city. That is genuinely ‘building back better’, much more than just an empty slogan”.
She stated that an Emergency Plan would include:
- prioritising the purchase of goods and services from local suppliers;
- making it easier for neighbours, family and friends to spend money in York;
- supporting businesses to work together and cutting red tape;
- using online technology to breathe new life into our much-loved high streets;
- tackling the problem of low paid, insecure work through Living Wage and Living Hours measures.
“We firstly need to understand as a city we are facing a jobs crisis, and we need to see the leadership and sense of purpose which is currently missing in the Lib-Dem/Green administration. The council’s strategy both during and post Covid must begin to look beyond only the following month, and to begin preparing a plan for jobs that offers some hope.
“This is an opportunity to support and represent residents, workers and businesses to create a cleaner, more inclusive and collaborative economy. We need a more liveable city that prides itself on both environmental and financial sustainability, and where innovation and creativity allow us to build an economy that works for everyone and is able to cope with the shocks of the future.”