Key decision time on Piccadilly site

Following the decision of the York Council to put the 17/21 Piccadilly site – currently occupied by Spark- on the market, thoughts are already moving onto how any tenders will be evaluated.

At least one social housing provider is understood to be interested in managing affordable units at first and second floor levels. The ground floor is simply allocated as “commercial” with some favouring part of it being used to house start up businesses.

When the former Airspeed factory was demolished a decade ago, planners said that they wanted the sites heritage acknowledged in any future redevelopment.

The Council must decide now whether the criteria that is uses to assess any tenders will give extra “points” for schemes that incorporate an aviation theme.

More than a decade ago the Yorkshire Air Museum (Elvington) expressed an interest in having a City center “shop window”. A bus serivice link to the Elvington airfield could have been incorporated into the project.

The use of museum displays on the Piccadilly site could stimulate the regeneration of the whole neighbourhood.

Such a project is unlikely to happen spontaneously. It will require some stimulation by the site owners and other agencies.

The first Airspeed aircraft built, G-ABSI Youth of Britain II, first flew on 10 April 1932 from Sherburn-in-Elmet.”

Representations about the future of the site were made in 2013 by a local resident

£8.3m paid in Council Tax Energy Rebate programme

In York, more than £8.3 million has been so far paid to residents as part of the Government’s Council Tax energy rebate programme.

This means 55,000 Council Tax payers have now received their rebate, but there are still more than 18,000 payments yet to be claimed.

In Spring this year, the Government announced that residents living in a Council Tax band A–D home and who pay their own energy bills, would be eligible for a rebate of £150 to help offset increased energy prices. Eligible residents who pay by Direct Debit and who have matching names on their bank, Direct Debit and Council Tax accounts, have been paid.

Whilst the teams at the council have successfully processed more than 55,000 payments, they are now urging the remaining eligible residents to come forwards to claim their rebates.

Cllr Nigel Ayre, Executive Member for Finance and Major Projects, said:

“Our teams worked incredibly hard to process the first rounds of payments, which have now been completed. Thank you too, to all residents who pay by Direct Debit or who have already claimed their rebate.

“No residents will miss out on a payment, with those not applying being automatically credited to their Council Tax account.  We are aware, however, in these difficult times many would prefer to have the money available to spend.

“It’s important that those eligible residents who haven’t come forward yet to claim their rebate, do so now. If you live in a band A – D property, you are entitled to claim it, so please do if you haven’t already, and use the cash to help you with rising bills. You won’t have to pay this money back: it is not a loan.”

Anyone living in a Council Tax band A – D property and who has not yet received their rebate, can complete the application form at www.york.gov.uk/CouncilTaxRebateScheme. The form takes 5 minutes to complete.

Residents who can’t get online to apply, can either use computers and support at their nearest York Explore library, call the dedicated support line free on 0300 373 0727, or attend one of the drop-in sessions happening across the city – for venues and times see Council Tax £150 Energy Rebate and Household Support Fund drop-in sessions – City of York Council.

Residents can choose to have the £150 credited to their Council Tax account. This will be done automatically for any household that hasn’t applied for their rebate by October 2022. Anyone without a bank account can contact the council for help setting up an account to receive their payment.

Transport planning in York

York Press 21/6/22

The headlines in today’s local paper suggest that the York Council is delaying a decision on its long term transport strategy until after the local elections, which are scheduled to take place next May

With the present plan covering the period up to 2030, the Council can afford to take its time. It needs to monitor how lifestyles change in the wake of the pandemic, BREXIT, international instability and industrial unrest.

We don’t yet know how the government intends to make u pits shortfall in fuel duty income as electric vehicle start to dominate the roads. If – as is widely expected – some sort of road pricing scheme is introduced, the technology deployed could also be used to vary charges to encourage off peak use of our transport infrastructure.

It is important that the different political parties offer clear choices in their local election manifestos next year. It is true that many recent transport investments in the City (including some really quite odd cycle network priorities) appear to have been driven by lobby groups,

it is vital that computer modeling data is used to support objective decision making. .

In the meantime the Council should concentrate on getting the basics right.

People aren’t going to opt to use two wheeled transport if routes are blocked by overgrowth or if cycle parking is inadequate.

Both issues can be addressed relatively cheaply.

Path obstructed. This one is in the Rawcliffe neighbourhood

Council continues NatWest partnership to promote female entrepreneurs

City of York Council are hosting another joint event with NatWest to help support female entrepreneurs and businesses leaders in York.

Following the success of the ‘Break the Bias’ networking event in March, City of York Council is again partnering with NatWest to host ‘ A Women in Business’ networking event to promote female entrepreneurship and amplify the support available for female business owners in York.

The event will be held on Thursday, 7th July 2022 from 11am to 2pm in the Wonderbar at Impossible York, 3 St. Helen’s Square. It aims to inspire and empower women to start, grow or upscale their business.

The headline speaker for this event will be Emma Godivala, Director of York Gin Ltd. She will be talking about ‘Trying to do the right thing’, and will share her experience of growing a business while looking after the products, people and the planet.

Alongside hearing the personal story of an inspirational business leader, participants will learn what business support York businesses can access from City of York Council, NatWest, Ad:venture and Enterprise Made Simple. The talks will be followed by a Q&A session and speed networking.

The networking event welcomes women business owners, senior managers and women thinking about starting a business in York. Interested participants can find more information about the event and register for a free place online.

York Council Leader welcomes ‘boost’ for York’s GBR bid

The Great British Railways HQ competition, launched back in February 2022, has seen 42 towns and cities submit their bids to become GBR’s new home, including York.

The Council’s own latest Quarterly Economic Update estimates the York rail industry already has 5,200 employees and that the proportion of  highly skilled jobs is larger in York than UK average levels. York’s rail industry cluster – which, with York at the heart of the Yorkshire and Humber cluster is a relatively large part of the Yorkshire economy, and larger than anywhere outside London, – has been estimated at roughly £356.3m Gross Value Added.

Moving the GBR HQ to York could have a major impact on the local economy, and estimates the move would add £110 million to York’s economy, creating 1,600 new jobs.

In a further boost to York’s bid, Northern Policy Foundation (NPF) has published a report which spells out a £600m risk to the government if it “fails to learn lessons from past civil service relocations” and makes clear that “if locations are not carefully selected moves can be disastrous”.

Their report finds that past moves have wrongly been driven by cost savings, and calls for renewed effort to ‘level up’ through creating and moving high-quality, knowledge-based jobs, but not to ‘out of town business parks’ which might reduce costs but do not deliver all of the desired benefits. The report says that because relocation of jobs has sometimes been to unpopular places to live, it has caused a greater need to recruit new staff, leading to greater disruption to any move.

York businesses reminded about apprenticeship support

City of York Council’s Apprenticeship team is reminding local businesses that they can get help and support – including financial – if they are planning to take on apprentices this September.

Apprenticeships continue to play a significant role in supporting the city’s economic recovery from the covid 19 pandemic, with 730 new apprenticeships started in York from June ‘21 to January ‘22.

A total of 79 of these were in the council and local authority maintained schools, which is an increase of 49 per cent in the last six months.

The authority has also agreed support for 27 apprentices in nine other organisations across the city, committing £160,000 of support through the Apprenticeship Levy Scheme.

This national initiative enables larger employers to transfer unspent apprenticeship levy onto other businesses or partner organisations, enabling the funding to remain local, benefitting smaller organisations and enhancing the pool of skilled workers in the city.

City launches new ‘early years’ recruitment campaign

City of York Council is working with early years and childcare partners across the city to launch a new campaign to recruit more people into the early years sector.

Like many other areas across the country, York has seen a drop in the number of people coming into the early years profession in recent years. It’s a trend that partners hope will be reversed by the new social media campaign.

Cllr Ian Cuthbertson, the council’s Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education, explained: Working in the early years sector really is more than just a job. It gives people a unique opportunity to help to shape the lives of future generations of children in York.

There are so many different roles within the sector, including childminding, nursery worker, or working in a school setting, many of which provide flexible working and career progression. I’d really encourage anyone who is thinking about entering the profession for the first time, or those who are thinking about returning after a break, to go for it. It’s so much more rewarding than an ‘ordinary job’.”

Benefits of working in the early years sector include:

  • the wide variety of roles available, from childminding to preschool teaching, nursery worker to out of school support
  • the chance to develop and use transferable skills
  • flexible hours available
  • great career progression opportunities
  • chance to make a real difference to the lives of the children you work with
  • every day is different

To find out more about working in early years and the opportunities in York visit www.york.gov.uk/WorkInYorkEarlyYears

Benefits calculator

If you are feeling the cost of living pinch it may be worth revisiting whether you are entitled to help. A simple on line calculator can be accessed here.

Use an independent benefits calculator to find out:

  • what benefits you could get
  • how to claim
  • how your benefits will be affected if you start work

These are free to use, anonymous, and have replaced the Benefits Adviser service.

Calculators

Use one of the following:

  • entitledto – for information on income-related benefits, tax credits, contribution-based benefits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit and how your benefits will be affected if you start work
  • Turn2us – for information on income-related benefits, tax credits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit and how your benefits will be affected if you start work or change your working hours
  • Policy in Practice – for information on income-related benefits, tax credits, contribution-based benefits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit, how these are calculated and how your benefits will be affected if you start work or change your working hours

What you’ll need

You’ll need accurate information about your:

  • savings
  • income, including your partner’s (from payslips, for example)
  • existing benefits and pensions (including anyone living with you)
  • outgoings (such as rent, mortgage, childcare payments)
  • Council Tax bill

York central development in financial difficulties?

The ambitious plan to build homes and offices on land behind the York railway station has run into financial difficulties.

The problems mainly arise from escalating building costs.

It seems that a £35 million investment from the York Council will now be needed sooner than was expected. The funding is required to pay for essential infrastructure works including the main access bridge.  

The Council had hoped to recover its investment via the business rates generated by the  commercial elements of the development. They are using an Enterprise Zone vehicle which would see 100% of the rates retained by the authority. However, this income stream will only start when the premises are occupied.

In the meantime, potentially, taxpayers will have to fund the interest charges on the borrowing. This was expected to be around £1.7 million a year in the early years of the project. However updated figures suggest that this could be as much as £5.5 million.

Such a figure could devastate the Councils revenue budget forcing unprecedent cuts in public service standards. As an interim solution the Council intends to raid its “venture fund” for money

The report also acknowledges that there may be less demand for office space in the post COVID world. This could also affect the viability off the project. This is why the Council and landowners are so keen to attract a reliable  anchor tenant such as a government department, British Rail etc. for the development

The Council also intends to sell back to Network Rail the former canteen building on Chancery Rise. The land is no longer required for an access road.

The Authority has also said that it will spend up to £1 million in improvements to the Jubilee Terrace/Scarborough Bridge cycle/footpath.  This will permit access during all but the most severe period of river flooding.  It seems though that it won’t address the “pinch point” issue where the path goes under Scarborough bridge.

Costs rarely fall as projects proceed, so taxpayers will be viewing progress at York Central with some concern

Future of Acomb Front Street

Curate’s egg of a report finally published

click to read

Over three years after consultants were commissioned to come up with regeneration plans for the Front Street shopping area, their proposals have been published. Resident and business responses to a survey have also been publsijhed

Consultants ideas for change

10 ideas are described as “high level views” and “have not been tested for feasibility or been subject to public consultation”.

On the face of it the report fails to move the issue forward with future change dependent on successful bids for funding from a range of sources. The absence of an agreed strategy or masterplan makes the likely success of any such bids problematic.

Some of the plans are likely to be contentious particularly the proposal to move blue badge parking further away from key shopping opportunities. Several representations were made for blue badge holders to be able to access parking spaces in the pedestrian area on at least one day a week – thereby helping to counter the Council’s insensitive changes to disabled access arrangements in the City centre.

These and many other suggestions from residents have been brushed aside.

A large majority of consultees felt that the existing parking/access hours should be retained

The consultants are recommending that vehicles be banned for the access road 24/7.

Major issues like the aeras vulnerability to anti social behavior aren’t recognised much less addressed. Similarly the ongoing maintenance costs and sources of funding for features like “linear parks” is ignored.

There are some sound ideas are fighting to extricate themselves from the Middle England consultants ethos. Few would, for example ,argue that the ramp down to Morrisons is anything other than a blight on the area..

The report makes clear what the projects £37,500 revenue budget has been spent on

Expenditure on Front Street project

Most will acknowledge that there has been a modest improvement in recent years in maintenance standards. Waste storage is generally better although are still occasional problems on the lane behind the Front Street shops. Weed growth has been brought under control.

However, the – privately owned – forecourts are still uneven and the absence of any recommendation for the leveling and paving of the whole area, is one obvious omission from the report.

Just how transient some of the ideas are is revealed by a throw away comment in the report which says

It is important to note that, there is no further identified council funding for
future Christmas lights in our secondary centres
(such as Acomb) .