Traders queue up to criticise Make It York – and councillors aren’t happy either

Rachael Maskell and Cllr Fiona Fitzpatrick join traders on Shambles Market in November. Photograph: Richard McDougall
13 Feb 2020 @ 7.50 am
| Politics

Market traders have accused Make It York of childish behaviour, a lack of communication, and ignoring regulations.

Stallholders queued up to criticise the city’s destination management organisation at a City of York Council meeting last night (Wednesday, 12 February).

And councillors also expressed disquiet about the lack of oversight of Make It York.

Make It York MD Sean Bullick was scheduled to report to the economy and place policy and scrutiny committee, but didn’t appear after being advised by council officials that his appearance was unnecessary.

Trader 1 – Kev Tuohy

Kev is chair of Shambles Market Business Group. He said of a meeting with Make It York:

“We hoped for openness, democracy, honesty and integrity. Instead we found the exact opposite.

I would sum it up as childish behaviour from Make It York similar to that of Veruca Salt in the Willy Wonka in that, in her words, ‘and if I don’t get the things that I’m after, I’m going to scream’.”

Trader 2 – Nicholas Roberts

The Jubbergate entrance to Shambles Market. Photograph: YorkMix
Nicholas told the committee about the security measures during the St Nicholas Fair which effectively kept stallholders in the market till late. He said:

“Being contained on a market that at times felt more like a prison camp with Make It York staff and security workers patrolling the perimeters to stop traders from breaching their defences and effecting an early exit from the market.”

He said long-running traders were leaving, including the man who had run a flower stall since 1967. He was told in November that he could no longer have his pitch in front of his stall near the entrance to Parliament Street, having spent thousands of pounds on Christmas stock. “He has sold flowers every year for the last 56 years. He will not be there this Christmas.

“He told me he’s finished with York market he’s done with Make It York, and he’s already laid off his two workers who work with him every Saturday.”

Trader 3 – Alessandro Venturi

The A’Roma Pasta Bar on Silver Street. Photograph: Richard McDougall
Alessandro Venturi and Robin George ran the A’Roma Pasta Bar on Silver Street. Alessandro said: “Make It York rented me a pitch in Silver Street, in front of a public toilet, inside the bin area of the market.”

He added:

  • After ten months of daily work, having paid always the rent I suddenly discovered that permanent foot trading in Silver Street was not allowed. The pitch is not suitable for this proposal. It’s unhygienic, unsafe, and doesn’t match the health and safety criteria.

    I was shocked. I read carefully the market rules and regulations. I noticed that Make It York doesn’t operate in accordance with this important document.

He added: “My question is, is it right that people keep trading in the main market of the city without any contract or a specific licence?

“In this chaotic picture – no licence and no safe environment – there is no longer an opportunity for us to trade in the market. Now we are jobless, our customers are unhappy, the city of York has lost top quality Italian food. What’s the point?”

Trader 4 – Robin George

Robin described the smell from the bins and drains on Silver Street as “disgusting all day, every day”. He said:

“Don’t get me wrong, the public toilet is a great service for the city, but you start to dislike it when it is in front of your trading unit.

“It also dragged people that used the toilet as a place to consume drugs. The syringes were regularly spotted on the floor.

Stalls in Shambles Market. Photograph: YorkMix

Trader 5 – Martin Spence

“Make It York consistently failed to communicate properly with York city council, the people of York, the wider world, and the Shambles Market traders,” Martin told the committee.

He said the organisation’s promotion of the market is “woefully inadequate” and that “York residents are unaware of Make It York’s real plans for the future – the city centre as a whole, or the Shambles Market”. Martin added:

  • We all deserve far better than this and must demand a massive improvement from them immediately.

    It appears that York city councillors regularly struggle to get full information from Make It York. Clear evidence of that is demonstrated today in the absence of Make It York’s MD.

    And if the city council cannot get a straight answer from Make It York, what hope is there for anyone else?

Councillors’ response

Council officials said that Make It York undertook a “very comprehensive reporting regime” including reports to the board and shareholders, and service level agreement negotiations. That is why it was thought Sean Bullick didn’t need to appear last night.

Committee chair Stuart Barnes accepted it wasn’t Sean’s fault for not attending the meeting.

But he said: “There is a lack of, in my view, governance, accountability and an opportunity for genuine cross-party scrutiny of arrangements.”

Cllr Claire Douglas said: “I don’t think that allows this committee to have any meaningful input into understanding what Make It York are doing, whether that be good or bad.”

And Cllr Kallum Taylor asked “what mechanism is there to force a change of behaviour?”

Charlie Croft, assistant director communities and equalities, told councillors: “We absolutely require Make It York to engage fully and constructively with the market traders at all time…

“Should Make It York reply to emails? Absolutely they should, and a great deal more besides. We’re more than interested in that.”