Former York Lord Mayor resigns from council forcing byelection

Now she'll have more time for reading… Cllr Sonja Crisp. Photograph: City of York Council
5 Jan 2018 @ 4.14 pm
| News, Politics

A former Lord Mayor of York has announced she is to leave City of York Council.

Labour councillor for Holgate Ward Sonja Crisp is retiring.

The byelection is expected next month.

Cllr Crisp, who spent 11 years on the council, said:

I have been a part of a very productive and dedicated team of three Labour councillors for Holgate Ward and am proud of the things we have been able to achieve for local residents.

She has given no reason for stepping down now. Cllr Crisp is the third Labour councilor to leave in less than a year.

In 2017 Julie Gunnell quit as Micklegate Ward councillor and David Levene resigned as Hull Road ward councillor.

Colour and controversy

York Minster Canon Michael Smith and then Lord Mayor of York Sonja Crisp at York Pride 2015. Photograph © Duncan Lomax / Ravage Productions

Cllr Crisp was the cabinet member for leisure, culture and tourism when Labour ran the council between 2011 and 2015.

She led a colourful political life, and was never far from controversy.

Cllr Crisp reopened Shambles Market after its renovations in 2015, and was the council’s lead when the Tour de France came to York the previous year.

She was also at the forefront of the decision to build a new York Community Stadium, with work originally due to begin “in spring 2015” – work actually started last month.

Cllr Crisp was active in bringing UNESCO Media Arts status to the city.

In 2014 she was also voted in – and then out – as chair of the group that oversaw the creation of Make It York.

Cllr Crisp was ousted after it was said that city tourism and business leaders did not have confidence in her – a claim she said was untrue and part of a ‘smear campaign’ against her.

Leaked emails and gags

Cllr Sonja Crisp when she was Lord Mayor of York. Photograph: City of York Council

As Lord Mayor 2015-2016 she opened the new Primark at Monks Cross and oversaw the Queen’s Gurkha Signals receive the Freedom of the City.

But she also sparked controversy. Leaked emails to the York Press showed a rift between her and City of York Council officials over the closure of the Mansion House for refurbishment – the Lord Mayor’s official residence.

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In the emails she described herself as the ‘pauper Lord Mayor’ and warned she might cancel engagements unless her ‘disgusting’ chains of office were re-gilded.

The revelations led to her being suspended from the Labour Party for a while.

And later as Lord Mayor, she was in the chair during a full council meeting in which she was accused of gagging a member of the public.

In March 2016 York resident Gwen Swinburn was stopped from speaking to a full council meeting and ejected from the chamber by Cllr Crisp.

The episode was then edited out of the council’s official YouTube video of proceedings. It was reinstated later.