General Election: Harrogate’s economy and local government funding

Harrogate view from Crescent Gardens

Harrogate view from Crescent Gardens

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The Harrogate district’s economy is one of the strongest in Yorkshire, with low unemployment and a high number of business start-ups.

The percentage of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) in the district is the lowest in the whole of the UK. Figures from March 2015 showed that 423 people from across the area were claiming JSA, just 0.4 per cent of the working population, compared to the Yorkshire average of 2.7 per cent.

The number of people claiming JSA in Harrogate is the lowest since records began in 1992. March 1993 saw the highest number of Harrogate job seekers with 4.5 per cent of the working age population signing on, the figures have remained on average half the national average over the last 23 years.

Figures from the Office of National statistics show there are currently around 91,000 jobs in the Harrogate district. Harrogate residents earn more than the Yorkshire average, taking home around £486 per week, however those working in the district tend to be paid less, £448 per week.

A recent study by Harrogate Borough Council found that the Harrogate district contributed over £3.7 billion to the national economy and has the highest business start-up rate in the Leeds city region.

The area’s economy is set to grow by £330 million before 2020, creating an additional 1,500 jobs.

Tourism is still a key economic driver for the district, supporting around 7,500 jobs and the conference trade at the Harrogate International Centre is thought to have brought around £62million to the local area’s economy in the last financial year.

Transport issues are holding up the area’s economic growth, the council has found, and traffic congestion by the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnerships LEP. Businesses have also reported that the high cost of housing can make it difficult to attract staff and a lack of superfast broadband is holding back some businesses in rural areas.

Local Goverment Funding

Front-line services have been slashed in recent years, as North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) struggles to make huge savings.

The County Council has been forced to cut the amount spend on services for disabled children, youth clubs and bus services

In December 2014 the council were landed with further cuts from central government funding. NYCC is currently in the process of making savings of £94m by March 2015, but December’s announcement reaffirms the fact that a further £73m will have to be found over the next four years.

The council said its spending power has fallen by more than a third in eight years and is still looking to make substantial savings by 2020.

Relying on volunteers to run some libraries is one of the unpopular savings plan the council has proposed in recent months.

This year saw NYCC increase it’s part of the precept by 1.99 per cent, which will bring in an additional £4.8million to its £363million per year.

Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) is in a more comfortable financial position than NYCC, and did not increase it’s part of the council tax for 2015/16.

This was the sixth consecutive year of HBC freezing council tax.

HBC plans to make savings of for 2015/16 the council has identified savings of £841,000 which it says will not affect front line services.

The council has proposed a new £9million office project, which it says can be built without external borrowing, but the plans have proved to be controversial and have divided the council down party lines.

We asked the candidates; What they will do to benefit the local economy and how their party’s policies will affect local government funding...

Harrogate and Knaresborough

Andrew Jones,

Conservative

Making a good case for public and private investment is key. £2.2m for local NHS winter funding, extra cash per pupil for our schools, millions more for the County’s potholes – all areas where I helped form or supported cases for investment. In the next Parliament funding for rail electrification and transport infrastructure will be critical.

Business investment drives growth and jobs. One example; I promote local business in Parliament and support the Conference Centre in growing business tourism. I successfully pressed for £10m more to host the Tour de France which brought significantly more into the Yorkshire economy.

Local Government Funding - Councils provide important services caring for all of us. They make our area pleasant and attractive.

It is important that these services are supported. This will be done partly through changes to business rates funding and targeted support. As a former local councillor I will always fight for local services.

Helen Flynn, Lib Dem

There is a pressing need to get a firm commitment to the electrification of the Harrogate rail line. My experience in chairing a Government funded transport initiative, DITA means I understand how the Department for Transport works, and electrification certainly would be a major priority.

However, the vast amount of trips in our area—some 64 per cent - are by car, and our roads are in a poor state of repair. In addition, poorly planned roadworks mean that thousands of pounds are lost to our economy. More needs to be done at Westminster to ensure that roads are properly funded and roadworks properly carried out.

Local Government Funding - Liberal Democrats believe local areas should have greater devolved powers, including spending, so that local areas can be strategic and think long term about where they need to prioritise funding. Transport funding has already been devolved, and we would build on this and extend devolution to other services such as health.

Jan Williams, Labour

Our area’s main industry is tourism. Workers are on low to average pay so we need to attract workers, and keep those we have, so I would push for affordable homes and affordable, secure rents. I would similarly fight for good infrastructure with joined-up public transport - bus and train companies working for the people they purport to serve rather than exploiting them, with safer cycling and walking measures to ease congestion. I’d fight for an education to fit the modern world, with first class apprenticeships for 18 year olds matching the number of university places – to, for example, promote diversification into high technology, green jobs.

Local Government Funding - Labour will devolve £30 billion of funding and give control over the full revenue from the growth in business rates to powerhouse economic regions so they can back local growth, with legal powers to set bus routes and fares and deliver on schools, housing and infrastructure.

Shan Oakes, Green Party

I will continue to campaign against the Orwellian TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) which will kill off local economies (and democracy) by giving power to corporations to sue government if government stops them making profit. I will strenuously oppose fracking which would ruin our water and tourism.

This area has massive potential for tourism: attractive villages and 3 lovely towns including ‘Happy Seagate’ (!) So I will work closely with the community to promote small business, the arts and heritage, local food and drink, horticulture, festivals and conferences, better walking, cycle and public transport infrastructure and car share schemes.

Local Government Funding -Green Party policy promotes the restoration of powers, revenue and jobs to local authorities. We believe in subsidiarity: decision making devolved to the level nearest where people are, with strong local accountability in e.g. education, housing and social care. Local authorities should coordinate transport options in the interests of users.

David Simister, UKIP

UKIP is committed to ensure funding is equally allocated across the whole of the United Kingdom. There has always been a north south divide, those towns and cities north of Watford faring the worst. Monies collected by central government form business rates must be put back into the local economy to help boost business and create jobs. This will help ensure that this constituency will be able to attract business to the area looking to set up and even expand their operations.

Government money must also be invested in our infrastructure, namely roads, and the Leeds, Harrogate and York railway line.

Local Government Funding - Over the last few years the county council budget has been slashed by the coalition government, this has resulted in a severe loss of services for the local area what I aim to do is fight for more money to restore and enhance the services provided by our local councils.

Skipton and Ripon

Julian Smith,

Conservative

We have more people in work in our area than for many years. Yorkshire has created more jobs than France since 2010. A major focus over my five years as Skipton and Ripon’s MP has been jobs and local economic growth. In 2010 I helped set up a business mentoring network to match those with experience with new start ups. I have also worked with the job centre to get more work experience places and the number of people doing an apprenticeship has nearly doubled locally under this Government. These very positive signs locally are matched by low interest rates and fast economic growth nationally, giving families greater stability.

A vote for any other party than Conservative would put this at risk.

Local Government Funding - Dealing with our debts is tough but we have to do it for the sake of our children and grandchildren. Morally, how can we pass on massive interest payments to the next generation? This means there will be further tough decisions on funding but as we have seen over the past years, it is possible to make these changes whilst maintaining services.

Andrew Brown,

Green Party

Nationally and locally the economy is still very vulnerable. Until we properly fix the banking problems that almost crushed the UK economy in 2007-8 we are at risk of once again being tipped into chaos.

So I would impose a tax on financial transactions to encourage long term proper investment. I would use the proceeds from this tax to invest in local sustainable business so that we can help to tackle the six per cent gap in the national balance of payments.

Local Government Funding - Local government has been starved of cash and stripped of powers.

I am particularly concerned that as a result of new planning rules local authorities are almost powerless to resist proposals for housing development that are inappropriate. I would restore proper planning legislation, restore democratic influence over schools, and stop the endless top down central government reforms and cuts which disrupt the delivery of an efficient service.

Alan Henderson, UKIP

UKIP stands for common-sense policies that make people’s lives better. We will fight for incentives to encourage new local enterprise, to rejuvenate town centres, developing empty properties / brownfield sites to meet local housing needs.

UKIP will ensure that social care is given a priority in order that our elderly, infirm and disabled are not abused further!

Local Government Funding - UKIP wish to move Government closer to the people, to cut waste on council vanity projects which are not required by the voters, whilst encouraging local referendums to ensure that local government is working for local people and business and not just following national party policy.

UKIP wish local tax receipts to be invested into the local economy to attract new business and new jobs to the area.

Add to this some infrastructure upgrades on our road and rail network a decent broadband connection and Skipton and Ripon will be well on their way to becoming prosperous once more.

Malcolm Birks, Labour

The best way to help the local economy is to support business and entrepreneurs as well as ensure that money gets through to the majority of local people rather than just the pockets of the rich. A Labour government will: help business confidence by not having the uncertainty of an EU referendum; cut and then freeze rates for small businesses; establish a British Investment Bank to boost support for small and medium-sized businesses; tackle the scourge of late payment by big companies to small businesses; help get the economy moving by insulating 5 million homes, creating thousands of construction jobs

Local Government Funding -

Our local government will benefit from: funding to vital public services being protected; the devolution of economic power and funding to regional areas; freeing up of local authorities to be able to invest in housing; protection of social housing; not forced to sell it off

Jacqui Bell, Lib Dem

Nationally the UK economy is doing well.

The national economic success by Liberal Democrats and their Conservative partner needs to be translated into local cross party achievements over the responsibilities of the coalition. Measures include; continuation in the EU as the EU is the main market for sales abroad, strong support mechanisms e.g Chambers of Trade , action against large out of town fringe of town developers, and investment in local transport and in broadband.

We should also consider positive discrimination for example a reduced rate of VAT for accommodation, meals and other tourist facilities.

Local Government Funding - Liberal Democrats are committed to localism.

We believe that democracy means that local services are agreed at local level rather than responding to centralised statistics.

We feel that local councils should be supported to do the task they are required to do. Liberal Democrats believe in in a federal UK with greater responsibility for regions within a Federal UK structure.