There were “serious failings” in the way York’s tourism body was run, a scrutiny meeting heard.
And a senior council officer admitted that City of York Council was unclear about what exactly it wanted the organisation to do.
Make it York (MIY), a company wholly owned by the council, was issued with a stinging audit report earlier this year, which found “significant weaknesses” in the organisation.
It revealed the organisation had not produced performance reports since September 2018.
MIY, which runs York’s Christmas market and Shambles Market, among other events, was granted a controversial bailout by the council at the end of 2020 after suffering significant losses as a result of the pandemic.
Its managing director stepped down earlier this year, with a new managing director expected to start work in November.
The council appoints the directors and members of its executive sit on MIY’s shareholder committee.
The council’s assistant director of customer and communities, Charlie Croft, admitted the authority “had not been a very good client to Make it York” at a meeting of the council’s audit and governance committee on Wednesday.
Reports from the directors to the shareholder committee were also “totally inadequate”, he said.
‘There was no teeth’
Mr Croft said a key issue highlighted in the audit report was that “there was no teeth, there were no penalties to force compliance.”
He added: “Even in the new regime, it is still going to be our company and if our company does not comply, then the issue still ultimately rests with us.
“There would not be any purpose in imposing financial penalties on our own company as we would simply be charging ourselves.”
He said his department had persistently challenged the directors and “expressed continued dissatisfaction” over performance.
Cllr Janet Looker, who previously sat on the body’s shareholder committee, said: “If you are going to monitor any organisation, you’ve got to have a clear idea of what they’re meant to achieve.
“Because as far as I can see they have done bugger all to promote culture in this city.”
Committee chairman Michael Pavolic said it was clear there had been “significant failings” at the organisation.
Mr Croft said: “I don’t think we have been very clear on our strategic requirements.
“I think we’ve often not been at all clear about what we wanted and we’ve had protracted periods of uncertainty about whether we want Make it York to perform certain functions at all and indeed have now removed them from the contract.”
The council took over responsibility for inward investment and economic development earlier this year.
A new contract has since been drawn up and a new business plan will be created once the new managing director is in place.
Councillor Robert Webb asked how businesses would know things had changed under the new regime, given user feedback had not previously been included in reports.
Mr Croft replied: “It’s absolutely imperative that a company that does have a subscription element to it can demonstrate what it is delivering for its members and the wider sector.”
Concluding the meeting, Coun Pavlovic said: “I hope moving forward there is more of a strategic vision but that strategic vision has to be given by the politicians and it seems that you’ve been badly let down in that respect.”