Lord Mayor of York: Business leaders criticise plans to scale down use of historic mace and sword to save £10,000

Business leaders in York and North Yorkshire have voiced concern over changes to the position of the Lord Mayor of York.

Funding for the Lord Mayor of York position was scaled back to save £10,000 on February 21. This includes not allowing the Lord Mayor to reside at Mansion House as was the case previously, reducing the use of private cars and reducing the number of occasions the historic sword and mace are used.

The decision has been criticised by opposition councillors, including Reverend Coun Chris Cullwick, the Lord Mayor of York for the civic year of 2023 to 2024. Business leaders have also laid into the decision, citing concerns over tourism, education and York’s identity.

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Andrew Pericleous, chair of York & North Yorkshire Chamber’s Hospitality Forum, said: “I am deeply concerned regarding the recent decision by the council to reduce the funding and capacity of the Lord Mayor of York’s roles and duties.”

York Mansion House. Picture James Hardisty.York Mansion House. Picture James Hardisty.
York Mansion House. Picture James Hardisty.

He added: “York’s allure as a tourist destination is deeply intertwined with its rich history and vibrant culture, both of which are proudly represented by the Lord Mayor, who serves as a symbol of York’s heritage and hospitality. Diminishing their role risks diluting the essence of our city, potentially deterring tourists and impacting the hospitality sector that relies on their presence to attract visitors.

“The Lord Mayor’s presence at local events, celebrations, and charitable initiatives brings people together and strengthens the bonds within our community. Cutting back on the Lord Mayor’s duties undermines this sense of unity and deprives the people of York of a vital representative figure. The Lord Mayor’s involvement in schools is instrumental in inspiring and educating the next generation of leaders.

“Scaling back the Lord Mayor’s role in schools deprives students of valuable insights and experiences that contribute to their personal and academic development.”

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Adam Wardale, chair of the Hospitality Association York, described the decision as “deeply disappointing.”

Chris CullwickChris Cullwick
Chris Cullwick

He said: “We appreciate the council is under pressure to review budgets but would ask that this decision be deferred to allow for consultation with local residents, stakeholders and businesses.”

Andrew Lowson, York BID’s executive director, said: “‘I was at the recent celebration of the Chinese New Year in the Mansion House and witnessed the gratitude of the community towards the Mayor’s attendance. The Mayor and Sheriff bring attention to minority communities, charities, schools, businesses and of course our cultural offer.

“I cannot think of any councillor or council officer who does a role like this so publicly. The big picture needs to be recognised with this decision.”

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Coun Katie Lomas, the council’s finance executive, defended the decision. She said it would “bring the civic office up to date and ensure its budget reflects the financial realities the Conservative government is inflicting on local councils up and down the country.”

Andrew Pericleous, chair of York & North Yorkshire Chamber’s Hospitality ForumAndrew Pericleous, chair of York & North Yorkshire Chamber’s Hospitality Forum
Andrew Pericleous, chair of York & North Yorkshire Chamber’s Hospitality Forum

Coun Lomas added: “The Lord Mayor and Sheriff will still be able to operate in a way befitting of civic heads of our city but the amount of budget allocated for hospitality and entertaining will have to fall. We think residents will expect all areas of council spending to play their part in responding to the real terms decline in funding the council has been experiencing for years, especially in discretionary service areas like this one.”

Coun Margaret Wells was announced to take over from Coun Wells in the Civic Year from 2024 to 2025.

“It is a huge honour to be elected as Lord Mayor,” she said. “I have lived in York my whole life as did my parents. My grandparents on both sides moved to York early in their lives, some as toddlers before the First World War and others during the First World War to work during the war effort.

“So York’s history, culture and customs run strongly through my veins. I still have photos of me dressed up selling programmes for the Lord Mayor’s parade back in 1973.”

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