Council backs Make It York until 2024 – but asks for improvements

The council has agreed to renew its contract with controversial ‘destination management company’ Make It York.

The organisation, which is owned by City of York Council, is tasked with attracting businesses to the city, promoting the tourism and hospitality industry, and running events such as the Christmas market as well as managing Shambles Market.

But the council admitted transparency and accountability of the company needs to improve.

The council already agreed in December to bail out the company for losses during the pandemic, with a £300,000 loan and letter of guarantee that the council will put up to £1 million towards the organisation during the next two years.

Now it will renew the contract for another three years.

Janice Gray, a resident speaking at a council meeting in which the contract was discussed, said Make It York’s work overlaps with other organisations and it could make savings by combining its work with them.

She said: “If a contract is renewed there needs to be a tightening up and routine scrutiny. I think the contract should be renewed annually if it goes ahead.”

Opposition councillor Claire Douglas told the meeting: “I have real concerns that our city taxpayers and council won’t be getting best value for the two million pound commitment they’ve been told they’re making to Make It York.

“This isn’t acceptable when this year our council is making budget cuts totalling £7.9 million.”

But Andrew Lowson of York BID praised Make It York for its work with the BID.

Joan Concannon, from York Festival of Ideas and the University of York, and David Horne, managing director of LNER, who are both board members of Make It York, also supported the renewal of the contract.

Speaking after the meeting, Sean Bullick, managing director of the organisation, said: “We look forward to finalising the contract over the coming months and continuing our work with City of York Council and other partners and businesses across the city to ensure York bounces back effectively from the current crisis.”