Decision on “Make it York” future

The Council must decide whether to renew a three year contract with Make it York (MIY) at a meeting taking place later this week.

The organisation is a curious hybrid with responsibility for a disparate range of functions including business development, tourism, culture and the Shambles market.

For residents, its City centre activities are likely to have the highest profile.  Many initiatives there, including the Christmas lights and anti-litter patrols, are the brainchild of the, trade funded, “York BID”

MIY has been criticised for its opaque decision-making processes.  As a “wholly owned Council company” it should be subject to regular review by a “stakeholder” committee and at least two of the Council’s scrutiny committees (which are themselves famously obtuse).

In realty the “stakeholder committee” rarely meets, while the Council’s two representatives on the MIY board have a largely subterranean profile.

Success has been limited, with a confusing array of bodies (LEP North Yorkshire, LEP City Region, York BID etc.) rubbing shoulders in the same field.

Coney Street decline

MIY can take some credit in helping to sustain the number of tourists coming to the City. This is an important part of the economy and visitor numbers have increased, partly on the back of a weak pound.

Employment levels in the City also remain high

The biggest criticism of the Council’s approach is a lack of smart PIs on which to judge the organisations success.

Very noticeably, there are no customer satisfaction measures in the current set, other than those for participating businesses.

MIY receives an annual £300,000 subsidy from taxpayers.

Tourist visitor numbers to UK increasing

According to the ONS both the number of people visiting the Uk and UK residents visiting abroad increased during the last quarter of 2016

Overseas residents made 9.2 million visits to the UK in the 3 months to December 2016. This was 6% higher than the same 3 months in 2015.

The amount spent on these visits was unchanged at £5.3 billion.

Visits from North America increased by 15% in the 3 months to December 2016, when compared with the same 3 months in 2015. Visits from residents of EU countries increased by 8% over the same period and visits from residents of other countries (countries other than Europe and North America) decreased by 3%.

In the 3 months to December 2016, overseas residents made 11% more visits for holidays than in the same period in 2015, trips to visit friends and relatives increased by 15%, while business visits decreased by 1%.

UK residents made 14.6 million visits abroad in the 3 months to December 2016, an increase of 8% compared with the same period in 2015. There was a 16% increase in trips to visit friends and relatives, the number of holidays increased by 7%, but business visits decreased by 2%.

The amount spent on visits overseas increased by 15% to £9 billion.

York eleventh in foreign visitor league

According to new figures published by ONS, York attracted fewer foreign visitors than its neighbour Leeds last year. The City was also behind both Oxford and Cambridge

City visits by foreign visitors 2014

The visitors included those on business trips and well as holidaymakers.

Neither the York Council nor Visit York have as yet commented on the new figures.

There was an increase in the number of visits to the UK by overseas residents for the fourth consecutive year in 2014, and the highest number of visits since the IPS began in 1961. It also had the highest recorded spending.

In 2014 overseas residents made 34.4 million visits to the UK, 5.2% higher than in 2013.

Earnings from visits to the UK reached a record level of spending in the UK of £21.8 billion, they increased by £0.6 billion (2.8%) compared to 2013.

The number of nights spent in the UK rose to 264.6 million, an increase of 7.8% compared to the previous year.

Visits from North America and Europe increased in 2014 by 3.3% and 6.6% respectively. Spending from North America and Europe also grew by 11.6% and 4.2%. However, visits and spending by visitors from “Other Countries” showed a decline of 0.2% and 2.9% respectively.

Holidays remain the main reason for visits to the UK, accounting for 13.6 million visits, a rise of 7.2% compared with 2013. Business visits and visits to friends and family both showed a growth of 4.8%.

A record 17.4 million overnight visits to London were made by overseas residents in 2014, an increase of 0.6 million (3.5%) from 2013, and £11.8 billion was spent on these visits.

Overnight visits to the rest of England grew by 5.1% to 14.2 million. Visits to Scotland and Wales also continued to rise in 2014, with Scottish visits up 11.5% and Welsh up 7.3%.

UK residents made 4.0% more visits abroad and spent £1.0 billion (3.0%) more during these visits in 2014 than 2013. The length of visit also increased, up 1.9% to 616.5 million nights.

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.