York Press column – Nestle news must not hold back York’s recovery
May 5, 2021
Although most York residents will have enjoyed a well-earned bank holiday, this will sadly have been a worrying time for Nestle employees given the company’s decision to shed 98 roles at its Haxby Road site, as part of a wider big investment in our city.
I am available to assist all impacted constituents, and on hearing the news immediately sought an urgent meeting with Nestle, which took place last Friday. I pressed them to commit to a meaningful consultation process with employees and unions, with workers properly listened to and regularly updated to minimise uncertainty. I will also be watching to ensure generous redundancy provision is put in place.
The redundancies, due to automation and efficiencies, are especially sad given they are part of a £20.2 million investment package for KitKat to keep York chocolate-making competitive and secure over 500 remaining jobs, through boosting production by 500,000 bars a year.
This news is a sharp reminder that despite York’s historic prosperity, we must not become over-reliant on a small number of firms for local employment, or assume the city can continue to flourish without welcoming a wide range of enterprises and job-creators with open arms. Most obviously, we must press on rapidly with the York Central development, which as one of the largest brownfield sites in Europe remains a unique opportunity for our city.
Thankfully, Nestle’s announcement was somewhat counterbalanced by last week’s news that the ETAS Ltd subsidiary of Bosch engineering is investing over £30 million at its Fulford site to create 11 new high-skill jobs in the growing autonomous vehicle industry. I will be meeting the management to discuss the benefits for York, and I understand this could boost other local businesses by bringing an automotive software supply chain, and has the potential to create up to 40 new jobs.
York must also remain open to innovations in public transport, which was why in April I was pleased to try out the new electronic scooters the TIER service is rolling out across the city, alongside electronic bikes. I was impressed by their procedures for preventing anti-social use, and believe TIER is a valuable contribution to community connectivity as our economy reopens.
There has also been wider positive economic news in recent days, with the British economy now predicted to grow at the fastest rate for over 70 years in 2021 as businesses reopen, making up the pandemic growth hit by mid-2022. Economic recovery locally of course rests on the continued success of York’s vaccination programme, with an estimate that over half of the city’s adult population have had one vaccine dose, and nearly a quarter already on their second dose.
Although covid vigilance remains essential, we also now have to assess at what point non-covid conditions will begin to pose the greater threat, and re-orientate our NHS accordingly. This is why I urged the Health Secretary in the House of Commons last month to act on delayed treatment and diagnosis, so a ‘hidden covid death toll’ from other serious conditions, like cancer, does not become the worst legacy of the pandemic.
Away from covid, York is heading to the polls this week to elect North Yorkshire’s new Police and Crime Commissioner, and last Thursday I was delighted to assist the Conservative candidate Philip Allot’s campaign on the concerning rise in pet theft by welcoming the Home Secretary to Murton. Priti Patel has done a great job on increasing police numbers, already having recruited 44% of the 20,000 new officers promised at the 2019 election, but I hope she can also now focus on this rising crime trend.
Not only does pet theft traumatise families and animals, but it is increasingly being driven by organised crime gangs seeking big profits, and needs to be stamped out. I have long focused on animal welfare issues, taking the Control of Horses Act 2015 into law as a Private Member’s Bill to combat the cruel practice of fly grazing horses, and as a result was given the Arthur Broome Award by the RSPCA for making an outstanding contribution to animal welfare. I am therefore very alarmed by this new menace, and will be pushing the government to take robust action.