‘Significant weaknesses’ have been identified at the council’s tourism body Make It York, an internal report concludes.
The organisation runs York’s Christmas market, Shambles Market and other events to promote the city. It was found to be in £663,000 of debt in December 2020. Its income has been severely hit by the pandemic.
But auditors also criticised the organisation for not producing any performance reports since September 2018. Four updates are supposed to be issued each year for City of York Council to understand how well the company is working.
The auditors from Veritau said issues with Make It York producing reports had been discussed – but the actions the company has agreed to have not yet been taken.
Make It York is a separate organisation formed and owned by the council to promote tourism and the economy.
The auditors acknowledge the impact of the pandemic on the company – but highlight problems dating back to 2018.
They say the last narrative report produced by Make It York covered July to September 2018 – but did not cover all the measures of performance. The company last published an annual report for 2018/19 and highlighted its achievements but did not look at performance measures.
“There has therefore been no specific measure of performance throughout the current contract,” auditors say.
“The lack of performance data against agreed measures may result in a failure to identify poor performance and to introduce the appropriate mitigation strategies. The reasons for this lack of performance reporting are not clear and minutes have not been taken at client/contractor meetings.”
They conclude that “significant gaps, weaknesses or non-compliance were identified” at the company.
They acknowledge that the council has good control of financial monitoring at the organisation – but add: “However, no contract income has been received from MIY since quarter three of the 2019/20 financial year, and property rents, service charges and other contract costs have not been paid for during the financial year 2020/21.
“The level of debt (at end of December 2020) was in the region of £663,000.”
‘Not seen as transparent’
Greg Dyke, chair of Make It York said: “We are committed to working with City of York Council to ensure robust and transparent reporting measures are in place moving forward.
“The new service level agreement sets out clearly the strategic objectives for Make It York and puts us in the best place to continue to support the city in key areas such as tourism, events, culture and Shambles Market.”
Former Make It York managing director Sean Bullick left the organisation in March after two years as boss. The company has yet to announce his replacement.
The organisation was given a taxpayer-funded bailout by the council at the end of 2020.
Last month the council agreed to renew Make It York’s contract – but said it would be taking away some of its responsibilities.
The council will take over responsibility for inward investment – helping to bring new businesses to the city – and economic development, which aims to promote York as a business location.
Most businesses and organisations support the role of Make It York, according to a survey by the council, but some had concerns.
A report said: “It is clear that the company model is not well understood and that it is not perceived to be accountable and transparent.”
The critical audit report will be discussed at a council meeting on Wednesday.