Decision Maker: Transport, Economy and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
Considered – A report by Mark Kibblewhite, Senior Policy Officer, Business and Environmental Services and Liz Small, Growth and Heritage Services Manager, Business and Environmental Services. The report outlined the delivery of the Council’s Plan for Economic Growth achieved in 2021/22.
The key points are summarised below:
· The overall health of the economy in North Yorkshire is returning to pre-lockdown levels of productivity, with the hospitality sector proving to be resilient and recovering strongly.
· The rate of unemployment and claimant count in North Yorkshire remains significantly below regional and national averages. Richmondshire is the currently the lowest in the county, with Scarborough showing the highest claimant count rate in North Yorkshire, but these are still below regional and national averages.
· At the height of the pandemic, the number of furloughed workers in the County was among the highest in the North of England. However, towards the end of the furlough scheme, this had reduced to below national averages.
· Constrained labour supply will be a limiting factor on future growth opportunities.
· There remains long standing wage discrepancies between different parts of the County and between the wages of residents and of workers within an area.
· The Government’s business support programmes have so far been successful in protecting jobs and businesses through furlough support.
· An emerging effect of the pandemic is that of sharply rising inflation which, exacerbated by war in Ukraine, is forecast to reach up to 8%.
Activity over the last year in relation to the Economic Growth plan included:
· The development of the Harrogate 47 commercial units at the A1(M) junction in Flaxby, with NYCC supporting the transport infrastructure to enable the scheme to progress.
· £32 million secured for Harrogate, Selby and Skipton through the Transforming Cities Fund to improve the town centres.
· Support to Scarborough Borough Council to progress Towns Fund investment of £37.3m in Scarborough (£20.2m) and Whitby (£17.1m).
· Development of a Cultural Framework for North Yorkshire was recently agreed by the Executive, supporting economic growth, transformation and social cohesion.
· Transport maintenance is very important to keep everyone moving, for example Kex Gill A59 improvements.
· Development of cycling and walking infrastructure plans to support active travel
· Working with the LEP to help grow the skills agenda (17k supported over 7 years).
· Development of a Skills Strategy for North Yorkshire with City of York Council and looking post-Covid at the future skills needs of the economy in North Yorkshire with the University of York.
· NYCC have spent £215m with local businesses in the county on goods and services. Preston is an example of a local authority that has made a commitment to buy local. It is felt there will be a bigger opportunity to buy local more as part of the new unitary council.
· Supporting Government plans around ELMS (Environmental Land Management Scheme) to help reduce carbon emissions and help the development of an environmentally friendly future.
· Enhanced broadband connections for residents, with town centre Wi-Fi now up and running across the county (21 in total), plus developing 5G plans.
As part of Local Government Reorganisation, an Economic Development Strategy workstream is set up and led by Trevor Watson from Harrogate Borough Council to review existing economic data, looking at plans and policies and to commission work on a new Economic Growth strategy. There will be opportunities to access funding from the Shared Prosperity Fund, Towns Deals and the Transforming Cities fund.
Members discussed the report and made the following comments:
County Councillor Paul Haslam felt a more joined up approach with the LEP was needed, particularly around the pillars of environment, social, governance. He also noted that there was no mention of the Circular Economy in the report, and suggested NYCC support local businesses as much as possible, for example buying from local farmers as part of school dinner ingredients.
County Councillor David Staveley noted that the existing District and Borough Councils already have established economic growth plans in place for their areas, and whether there would be a process of bringing them all together as part of the new authority, given that each area has its own individual issues.
In response, Liz Small commented that all councils area are represented on the workstream group set up and that the best practices of the districts and boroughs should be reflected in any plans put forward.
County Councillor Paul Haslam reiterated this, feeling that the new authority should ensure the best of everything is kept and councillors are involved in steering this work. He also felt a commercial approach will be required and this may take time to get right.
County Councillor Stanley Lumley asked about the bounce back of the North Yorkshire economy in the year ahead. Liz Small responded that a strong summer for domestic accommodation and hospitality is expected, however there could be difficulties for the farming sector as part of the introduction of the ELMS. This had also been considered as part of the work of the Rural Commission.
Mark Kibblewhite added that nationally GDP is almost back to pre-pandemic levels, but the recovery has reached a shelf, with the rise in National Insurance and household bills kicking in. He also noted that following Covid a trend has developed of people retiring earlier and reassessing their work/life balance, therefore the labour market is shrinking. County Councillor David Staveley added that retaining staff is a real issue for businesses to continue providing services, as this will hold back the recovery of the economy.
County Councillor Karl Arthur made a comment about finding a balance between raising interest rates to combat rising inflation and not going too far and causing a financial crash.
County Councillor Stanley Lumley asked about the town centres in North Yorkshire with less people working in offices regularly and the knock on effect this has on local businesses. Liz Small responded that this is an issue that Directors of Development have been discussing, to repurpose town centres to become more leisure based in the future.
County Councillor Stanley Lumley summed up and thanked the officers for attending the meeting.
1) That an update report on the North Yorkshire County Council Plan for Economic Growth be brought back to the committee in 12 months.
Publication date: 26/04/2022
Date of decision: 13/04/2022
Decided at meeting: 13/04/2022 - Transport, Economy and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee