Category: Economy

Covid Watch 71: Job Watch Ludlow – huge leap in unemployment following lockdown – we can’t assume that jobs will reappear after the epidemic

Today saw the publication of national and local unemployment statistics. As expected, the data make grim reading. It shows people in the local job market have lost their jobs and people hoping to get into employment are struggling to get a job. The latest data for July show that 385 people in Ludlow were claiming employment related benefits. A year ago, just 165 people were claiming. That’s a huge leap for a small town like ours. In Ludlow, the claimant rate in June was 6.8%. That’s higher that the rate for Great Britain (6.3%) and nearly half as big again as the rate across Shropshire (4.6%). That’s bad news. Although the doubling of 185 claimants in May to 385 this is undoubtedly down to the Covid-19 epidemic, we must be concerned that local jobs could be lost permanently as the nation’s economy weakens.

Covid Watch 49: Ludlow as a socially distanced town – new signage to be discussed with Shropshire Council next week

We must get our town back into business. It’s going to be tough. We must move into unknown territory as a socially distanced town. Every business will need to adjust the way they work. We must allow cafes and pubs to spill into our streets. Allow businesses to sell their wares from tables on their frontage. Some streets should be closed at weekends and public holidays. The market must reopen. A lot of decisions need to be made. First up will be new signage. A street meeting of officers and councillors on Tuesday afternoon will look at locations for up to 155 new signs around the town ordering people to keep apart. That is a huge number of signs for Ludlow. It is a lot of clutter. It could feel intimidating in a town known for its friendliness. A better model would be gateway signs, with a small number of repeaters. We need signs telling people they are welcome in a socially distanced town. And carefully placed reminders emphasising this is a socially distanced town.

It has taken a little while to get new systems in place to pay government grant money to local businesses. But matters seem to have been resolved. Except the biggest issue. More than 1,500 businesses have not yet applied for the money. A minority of these may not be eligible for grants under EU rules. But it is still puzzling that one in five Shropshire businesses had not made a claim by last Wednesday. Up the road in Telford and Wrekin, almost all businesses have received the money they are due. That is an extraordinary difference. I can’t explain it. Shropshire Council needs now to go into overdrive to ensure that all businesses eligible for funding get the money they are due.

Shropshire Council wants to regulate A-Boards and charge small traders in Ludlow up to £213 a board

A-Boards can be a hazard to the partially sighted. Boards can be a problem for families with child buggies. They can be unsightly. But they are also essential for local businesses, many of which are on side alleys. Most people I have spoken to do not want to get rid of A-Boards. They want more care in where they are positioned. My proposed guidelines on resolving this have been ignored. Having rejected charges for A-Boards in December 2018, Shropshire Council is now about to reverse its position. It aiming to charge £213 an A-Board for the first year and £111 a year thereafter. Only one A-Board will be allowed per premises. This is mindless bureaucracy driven by officers and councillors who have lost their understanding of the importance of the independent retail market to rural market towns like Ludlow. They are determined to pursue this tax and ruin policy.

Covid Watch 45: Grants for the self-employed available from this morning

The economy of Ludlow and Shropshire is dominated by small businesses. Many people work in micro-businesses, those with less than ten employees. At the last count, there were 14,355 micro-businesses in our council area. That’s 91% of all our enterprises in Shropshire. Many working in these businesses are self-employed. They were initially ignored by the government but a £9bn support scheme is now in place. It has strict rules and will not help those businesses that did not submit a tax return in 2018-19 because they had just been established. I have received a lot of desperate pleas from local micro businesses. I hope this scheme will help. Let me know how it works out.

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