Quango set to take over Council’s economic development activities

More of the York Councils decision making powers are to be handed over to an unelected body tomorrow (Tuesday) The Council’s Cabinet is being recommended to approve  the transfer of “marketing, culture, tourism and business development” activities to a company called “Make it York” (MiY).

The new company will have a budget of around  £4 million a year. Much of this will come from Tourism activities although the Council will transfer its Shambles Market (£241k),  Tourism (£232k), Science City (£100k), Economic Development (£337k) and Cultural activities (£229k) budgets into MiY control.


As well as tourism, the company will be responsible for an eclectic range of activities including “Christmas Lights”.

The outline business plan for the organisation can be read by clicking here

The Council’s interests on the Board of Directors will be represented by the Council Leader and Chief Executive.

Some will feel that the second Council seat should be allocated to an opposition Leader, rather than to a paid official. This might improve the chances of a  consensus emerging on priorities and could give the company a life expectancy extending beyond May 2015

The move comes in the wake of a series of decisions which have, in recent years, steadily eroded  taxpayers influence over how their money is spent.

As well as the Museums Trust, the City’s Libraries and Archives are now managed by an independent organisation. In fairness, both  these organisations have so far been relatively benign and seem to be sensitive to users views.

Strategic transport and economic development powers have been partly transferred to a “combined authority” which has its headquarters in Leeds. Feedback from this body is poor with the decision making process largely impenetrable for the average resident.  There will be big questions to be answered about York’s future in the “Leeds City Region” after the Council elections take place in May.

In the meantime, the major criticisms of “Make it York” remain its lack of accountability, transparency and its attitude to the needs of the City’s suburbs.

 It could quickly enhance its reputation by publicly backing the Front Street regeneration project.

Residents will want to see the organisation making its decisions in public and will expect it to – voluntarily – agree to respond to Freedom of Information requests.

Call for Barbican hotel statement

Barbican development site June 2014

Barbican development site June 2014

The next Council meeting is likely to debate why a start on building work, on the derelict site next to the Barbican, has been delayed.

Planning permission for a 165 bedroomed hotel was granted in January 2012 with the aim being to provide facilities which would complement the use of the adjacent Barbican auditorium as a conference centre.

Property firm Broadhall was granted permission to build a Hilton Garden Inn on the land. The development was expected to bring at least 200 additional jobs to the City.

Plans to erect nearly 200 flats on another part of the vacant site were submitted last year

A recent major conference held at the Barbican centre was criticised for lack of “break out” space.

Now the site – which used to accommodate a swimming pool – has been derelict for 2 years with gaps in the hoardings affecting the view from the City Walls and blighting one of he key routes around the City.


Walmgate Bar June 2014

Walmgate Bar June 2014

The Council has also been criticised for not starting a permanent repair on nearby Walmgate Bar.

The Bar was shored up following a collision four years ago.

Two years ago the media reported that a start on refurbishment work was imminent.

With the City having a “showcase” opportunity provided by the Tour de France event next month, many had expected the Council to act on unsightly buildings and sites.