Number of furloughed workers in Leeds tops 40,000

There are currently more than 40,000 furloughed workers living in Leeds, a Leeds City Council meeting has heard.

Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 5:40 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 5:46 pm

Councillors were also told how the number of Universal Credit claimants almost doubled between March and December, while the rate of youth unemployment increased from one in 33 to one in 13.

The effects of Covid-19, and its subsequent lockdowns, were laid bare at a meeting of Leeds City Council’s infrastructure scrutiny board, which was also told there had been a “sharp rise” in business liquidations from September 2020 onwards.

Senior council officer Eve Roodhouse told the meeting that 47,700 of the city’s workers were understood to be furloughed by December 2020, while Universal Credit claimants had risen by 95 per cent between March and December that year.

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The number of people claiming Universal Credit in Leeds has almost doubled in the past few months.

It also stated that youth unemployment had more than doubled from three per cent in September 2009 to 7.5 per cent in September 2020.

Meanwhile, the size of Leeds’ service sector also shrunk by around 10 per cent since February last year.

Footfall, while changeable due to altering lockdown restrictions, is currently down by an average of 81 per cent compared to 12 months ago, meaning fewer than a fifth of the usual number of people were counted on the streets of Leeds.

Ms Roodhouse said: “We are kicking off work to help us understand these trends.

“We want to do work in the coming months around employment and skills, and making sure we are doing everything we can to respond.”

Coun Neil Buckley (Con) spoke out against lockdowns, adding: “Figures are one thing, but we need to remind ourselves, in my view, every lockdown we have along with cessation of economic activity means more inequality and more poverty.

“There is no free hit here – lockdowns make people poorer and the poorest people are affected the worst.”

Coun Paul Wadsworth (Con) said: “People are going to see a change to the city centre when they come back – some of the anchor stores such as Debenhams and Topshop are going to have disappeared.

“Are we going to have a lot coming back? We used to have coach trips, particularly from the northeast. If people see our retail offer is not what it was, how will we retain them?”

Eve Roodhouse said work was being done by the owners of Trinity Leeds to ensure they get an occupier for the newly-closed Topshop unit in Briggate, and were ahead of other cities in terms of securing long tenancy agreements for occupying retail businesses.

Councillors in the meeting agreed to note a report into the issue.