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York: portrait of a city
12:00am Tuesday 19th February 2013 in The York Report
York is an exceptional place in the North of England economy, and frequently ranks alongside southern counterparts Oxford and Cambridge in national league tables as one of the strongest-performing cities in the UK.
Think-tank Centre for Cities classified York as one of few cities which showed little or no change in performance during the downturn.
It ranks York sixth out of 64 cities on jobs, with an employment rate of 75.9 per cent in June 2012, up three per cent on July 2011. It was one of just 11 cities to increase by more than two per cent.
York had the fifth lowest claimant count for JobSeekers Allowance (JSA), at just 2.2 per cent, in November 2012.
York’s population is highly educated, with 40.8 per cent of the working-age population being qualified to NVQ level 4, degree level, or above. Only 6.8 per cent of the working-age population have no qualifications, the third lowest percentage, which also makes York the only city in the North to figure in the top ten.
York has evolved from a city with major manufacturers involved in the railways and confectionery to a more diverse, knowledge-based economy, supporting more than 110,000 jobs and contributing £4 billion of value to the national economy.
It has reinvented itself in the science and technology and the financial and business services sectors and businesses spend three times as much on research and development than the regional average (£229.35 per head compared to £76.26), leading to faster rates of innovation, according to City of York Council.
It also has a large proportion – 33 per cent – of public-sector employment, but the proportion of private-sector employment grew by 2.4 per cent in 2010 to 2011.
While it has previously ranked lower than its regional counterparts in new business creation, the city is now seeing the fastest growth rate of new start-ups in the region for early stage start-ups over the last three years, according to UK Bank Search Database, with 1,661 businesses created in 2011.
However, the 2013 Cities Outlook by Centre for Cities showed the city registered only 1.6 patents per 100,000 residents in 2011, ranking it in the bottom ten UK cities.
The city’s productivity is lower than comparable cities, and only 85 per cent of the national average, according to the Huggins Competitiveness Index (2010), which could reflect high earners living in York and working elsewhere.
York has a resilient economy and a strong basis for growth, and its economic strategy for 2011 to 2015, drawn up by the city council and the York Economic Partnership, sets out its vision to become a top-five UK city and a top-ten European city, measured against comparable cities.
It aims to create 1,000 new jobs a year and 75 new businesses a year by 2015, increasing its new-business survival rate beyond three years to 70 per cent, and to get 15 per cent of the city’s businesses exporting.
The city is a wonderful place to live. It was voted Britain’s most beautiful city by Bing in 2011 and named one of the world’s top 200 places to live by Lonely Planet in the same year. Its history is preserved in more than 2,000 listed buildings, while it is also investing in improving its sense of place with an upgrade of Exhibition Square and the development of cultural attractions.
The York Theatre Royal is undergoing a £4 million refurbishment which is expected to double the size of its entrance and cafe areas, and to improve the intimacy and flexibility of its auditorium, while the City Art Gallery, on the other side of Exhibition Square, has also recently closed for a £8 million revamp, which will include the creation of a new gallery in a secret room in the original Victorian roof space.
House prices remain high in York, with an average price of £179,443 in December, up 1.7 per cent on December 2011.
Low housing-stock growth, with just 220 houses built between 2010 and 2011, makes it one of the most expensive places in the UK to rent or buy a home, while average incomes of £25,524 are just below the national average of £26,357, although the gap narrowed between 2010 and 2011.
For landlords, however, that means York also has the highest return on investment in the country, according to property website Zoopla, which compared the rental yields available on twobed flats, with a gross yield of 8.56 per cent on an average price of £148,246.
The average life expectancy for York citizens has been steadily climbing over time to 79.6 years for men and 83.2 years for women in 2009, significantly higher than the England average, and York scores better than the England average for many health indicators.
The over-65 population is expected to increase by about 40 per cent by 2020, accounting for almost 25 per cent of the total population, and by 2020 the number of people aged over 85 years is expected to increase by 60 per cent.
Forty per cent of York’s population live in areas classified as the being in the least deprived 20 per cent in England, but seven per cent of York’s population live in areas classified as being the 20 per cent most deprived areas in the country. However, York was ranked by Centre for Cities as having the sixth-lowest levels of inequality in UK cities.
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