Jobs and the economy – North Yorkshire’s Rural Commission calls for evidence

Tackling the issues of high employment but low wages linked to tourism and agricultural jobs is next up before North Yorkshire’s independent Rural Commission.

North Yorkshire Call for evidence

Following this month’s (December 18th) evidence session on food, farming and the environment – the eight commissioners will sit in January to hear from individuals, businesses and organisations on the issues and opportunities for a thriving economic future for the county.

Supported by the County Council, the commission consists of experts in rural economics, policy, community led ventures, agriculture and the environment, business and media.

Chair of the Rural Commission, The Very Rev John Dobson DL, Dean of Ripon, said: “This month (December) we heard a powerful mix of evidence and creative vision from farmers, rural organisations and agricultural businesses. All of the submissions received are being carefully examined.

“Next we hope to hear ideas and opportunities that will help us address the big issues of retaining and attracting young talent, business diversification, equality of opportunity, skills and training and a broad range of other subjects linked to jobs and the economy.

“I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to send us evidence and to present to the commissioners and to encourage people to grasp this opportunity to help us to support our county’s most rural communities to grow and prosper in the future.”

North Yorkshire’s economy

North Yorkshire has a relatively healthy and diverse economy which largely mirrors the national picture in terms of productivity and jobs.  Employment levels exceed the national average at 81.9 per cent compared to 78.9 per cent in Great Britain.  Average weekly pay is below that of Great Britain but above the regional average in Yorkshire and Humber.  Productivity per head of population is below national averages but also above that of the region.

There are some sectorial differences between North Yorkshire and the UK and these reflect the rural nature of the county. Agriculture, manufacturing, accommodation and food are higher both in terms of productivity and employment value while information and communications and financial services are below average.

House prices are relatively high particularly when compared to wages with Ryedale and Harrogate being the least affordable districts in the North of England in which to buy a home.

Weekly earnings by place of residence (2018):

  • North Yorkshire: £531
  • Yorkshire and Humberside: £520
  • Great Britain: £571

Across North Yorkshire there is substantial variation in average weekly incomes.

Manufacturing

Food manufacturing in North Yorkshire accounts for about 50 per cent of the sector and in employment term, accounts for 21 per cent of employment in Ryedale and 16.7 per cent in Selby District.  This sector accounts for 11 per cent of employment in North Yorkshire and 8 per cent nationally. 

Tourism and the Visitor Economy

In employment terms accommodation and food service activities are also extremely significant in North Yorkshire.  In Scarborough Borough this sector accounts for 19 per cent of all jobs and 17.4 per cent in Richmondshire. That compares with 7.6 per cent nationally.  Along with wholesale and retail these sectors account for over 25% of the county’s jobs in what are traditionally low paid occupations.

Numbers of self-employed individuals are higher in North Yorkshire, 15.1 per cent compared with 10.7 per cent nationally.

It is notable that by number of enterprises Agriculture, Food and Fishing is the largest sector in North Yorkshire by some margin with 6,410 enterprises compared with the next largest sector which is construction 3,425 enterprises.  This probably reflects a large number of small scale producers with very low numbers of employees (2 on average) but it reinforces the view of a rural economy which includes a large number of micro enterprises working in agriculture, forestry and fishing related activities but with low margins of return or for relatively low wages.

Key areas for further investigation:

  • Low wages versus high housing costs
  • The future of farming in local and national supply chains
  • Tourism and the low wage economy
  • The role of technology, history and heritage
  • The future of our Market Towns
  • Distances workforce needs to travel to work

The commissioners will hear some evidence in person but will also be examining submissions made via email to RuralCommission@northyorks.gov.uk

See guidance on the best way to submit evidence and opinions, raise points of interest or highlight matters of importance.

Background

85 per cent of north Yorkshire is classed as ‘super-sparse’ or very rural. The county’s population density is five times below the national average, with just 76 people per square mile compared to 430, which is the English average.

North Yorkshire has more rural schools than anywhere else in England and continues to fight for a fairer funding formula, but despite those efforts eight schools have closed in the last three years and many more have significant budget pressures.

Affordable rural housing is very limited. Farmers in particular face tough times ahead.

The Rural Commission’s challenge is to examine these issues in a new and innovative way and seek workable solutions to halt and reverse rural decline.

The purpose and aims of the Rural Commission are to:

  • Recommend the actions that local partners should take over the next 10, 20 and 30 years in order to maximise the sustainability of the most rural communities in North Yorkshire.
  • Improve the evidence base and arguments that will enable local partners to make the case successfully for increased government support to maximise the sustainability of the most rural communities in North Yorkshire.
  • The panel is aided by a reference group of key stakeholders to include the leaders of the district councils in North Yorkshire, the 2 national park authorities in the county and North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership. 

The commissioners

  • The Very Rev John Dobson DL, Dean of Ripon (Chair)
  • Martin Booth - experienced community worker, project manager, trainer and social entrepreneur
  • Chris Clark - Partner in Nethergill Associates, a business management consultancy – building an eco-hill farm business – member NDNPA
  • Heather Hancock – Chair of the Agricultural Forum and former Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority
  • Jean MacQuarrie – Editor-in-Chief, Yorkshire Weeklies – JPI Media
  • Professor Sally Shortall - Duke of Northumberland Chair of Rural Economy, Newcastle University
  • Dr Debbie Trebilco - Director of Community Energy England and of the North York Moors National Park Trust.
  • Sir William Worsley - Chairman of the National Forest Company and of Hovingham Estate.

More information on North Yorkshire’s Rural Commission and the commissioners.

This story was published 24 December 2019