2 January 2019
Key figureheads in York reveal their outlook in 2019 for the city and what’s needed…
What are your hopes and fears for 2019? The York Press asked the great and good of York to share their outlook and matters such as prosperity, housing, Brexit and the environment were rasied as priorities amongst others …
Phil Pinder – Chair York Retail Forum
“This year has certainly been a difficult one for retail. The internet has continued to grow over the last decade, yet despite this, the tax burden in the form of Business Rates has stayed very firmly with high street retail. This year has seen the pinch point, where this unfairness has reached a crucial point. Amazon, for example, is estimated to pay around £11m in business rates, compared to Tesco which pays a whopping £700m.
We have seen some reform, but we need bold politicians to scrap this outdated property-based business tax and replace it with a new tax, fit for the digital age, perhaps based on turnover of sales.
More locally, while York performs well as a tourist retail destination that will ensure our long-term future, we do very badly at attracting locals into the city centre. There are a number of reasons for this, but primely our residents don’t feel as engaged with their city centre as they should, and this needs to change.
What would I propose? We need to engage all interested parties, including residents, and hold a 2019 City Centre Summit. We must create a detailed plan for the future, it seems our politicians have been unable to do this, so we must take the reins. Do we want cars driving into the so-called pedestrianised city centre at 5pm on a Saturday? Retailers don’t, that’s for sure. Our city centre should no longer have retail as its single purpose, it should be a central community hub where retail exists. Retailers are happy to play their part in making this happen, will you help us?”
Ian Gillies – Leader City of York Council
“The history of York has evolved over more than 1900 years, making our city what it is today, voted the best place in Britain to live. It is not perfect, and we have challenges such as adult social care, air pollution, the cost of housing, maintaining our retail and manufacturing base, and eliminating areas of deprivation along with other issues.
We are however on the threshold of change. Castle Piccadilly, York Station frontage, York Central, the Community Stadium and the submission of our Local Plan have all been progressed under this administration. Some initiatives will complete next year, while others will take much longer. We are also embarking on an ambitious housing programme in 2019 to commence the building of more than 600 houses, which will be a mixture of shared ownership and council house homes on council-owned sites throughout the city funded through our Housing Revenue Account. This is only the start of our plans.
Our government is not making our work easy. Brexit negotiations are at best inconclusive and we are unable to achieve a definitive answer on a One Yorkshire Devolution Bill. The outcomes of both will have a major part to play in the expectations of both York and Yorkshire.
I do have the confidence that we are well placed to adapt to the challenges of 2019 and beyond, there is no doubt there will be many, but I am committed to serving the city in whatever capacity the future holds.”
Dr David Fair – York GP
“My main hope for the country is that the government remembers it has a country to run as well as Brexit to sort out. It seems like the NHS, education, police, and transport problems are being forgotten while the politicians are looking the other way so I’d like to see them postpone Brexit for a few years to get the UK in better shape first. Many of my most delightful patients are non-British, as are really great colleagues and people I meet every day as I live and work in York. I really hope these people realise how welcome they are here and that they will choose to stay. The problems in the NHS are huge due to years of poor investment and planning. In 2019 we risk losing essential staff as they return to their home countries and that will lead to severe personnel shortages on the hospital wards and in care homes. I see most of my GP colleagues taking early retirement or reducing their hours due to mental exhaustion so I don’t see it getting any easier to get a GP appointment. On the plus side, there are lots of exciting new innovations in gene therapies and sequencing which promise to bring major improvements to treatment. The core of my work is about keeping people as well as possible so they can live prosperous, happy and fulfilling lives, and of course that won’t change. A very Happy New Year to everyone!”
Kate Lock – Climate change researcher
“What I hope for most for 2019 is that we step back from the brink. Back from the Brexit brink. Back from the climate brink. Back from all the bonkers brinkmanship that has got us teetering on the edge.
We have a government spending billions of taxpayers’ money on emergency planning for a no-deal Brexit, an entirely avoidable self-inflicted catastrophe. Meanwhile, a human-caused emergency that we can’t avoid – climate breakdown – is barely on the national agenda.
As of 2019, we have 11 years to reduce our emissions by almost half. By 2050, well within our children’s lifetimes and maybe our own, they need to be zero. This year, global emissions went up by almost three per cent. It’s as if we’ve never heard of climate change.
What gives me hope is that, at the local level, good stuff is happening.
Councils are starting to take matters into their own hands. Manchester, Bristol, London – they have all brought forward ambitious targets for getting to zero carbon. Leeds has its own Climate Commission.
It makes all sorts of sense: research by the University of Leeds (candocities.org/energy-and-carbon/york) has found that investing in profitable low-carbon and energy efficiency measures would cut York’s total energy bill by £60m a year, create savings for businesses and households, generate nearly 800 years of employment and improve our climate resilience.
My hope for 2019 is that York will present its own raised target. And, crucially, set out a roadmap for us all to play our part in.”
Rebecca Thompson – Chair York Design Awards
“Writing a list of hopes and fears for 2019 is a challenge and holds an element of responsibility; my utopian hope is world peace and an end to poverty, but I have focussed on items I can influence and change as a leader in the construction industry.
I fear Brexit, I think we all do. I fear the impact on people who settled in Europe or the UK and will be disrupted, the impact on construction and heritage skills. My hope is that European and world leaders will work collaboratively and respectfully of each other, with an intent to provide what is best for everyone to thrive.
I fear the fact that more than 6,500 children live below the poverty line in the City of York. I hope that as a city and community we can stop this shocking news by supporting The Island charity which provides mentoring and support.
I fear an irreversible impact on the environment – we are currently living a three-planet lifestyle in the UK with a huge impact on natural resources. I hope people take note of the ‘Blue Planet’ TV series and stop using plastic. We are a nation of innovators, there are other solutions out there, I hope we embrace the change before it is too late.
I fear our lack of diversity, inclusion and tolerance. I hope that by the end of 2019 this is not a headline and inclusive behaviour is integral to our leadership in business and communities.”
Keith Orrell – Lord Mayor of York
“This year has been momentous for the Lady Mayoress and myself. Being Lord Mayor is life changing. First, I would like to thank all the people and organisations who have made the Civic Party so welcome at the hundreds of engagements we have attended. Everyone at the Minster, all the Guilds, charities, schools and community events have been so hospitable.
The Mayorality is very important to so many people across the city.
During this time we have welcomed people from many countries to the Mansion House, the home of Lord Mayors for nearly 300 years, as part of the city’s continuing development of international links. We hope to continue this in the coming year.
One area I have been keen to promote is environmental sustainability as our city plays its part in combating climate change. Linked with this is our campaign to reduce single-use plastic.
I am hopeful that the proposal to make York a “refill” city, where people can refill bottles with water at many businesses around the city, will happen soon. This will allow everyone to refill their bottles and raises the profile of the unnecessary use of plastic.
Nationally, Brexit will no doubt continue to dominate. As Lord Mayor I am required to be politically neutral but as I have been a Liberal Democrat councillor for many years it is not difficult to work out my views.
On behalf of the Civic Party I would like to wish everyone a healthy and prosperous new year.”