Search on for chief executive to oversee economic growth

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TAXPAYERS will foot the bill for a recruitment campaign to find a chief executive to help drive forward Ripon’s beleaguered economy.

Councillors in the city have agreed to instigate a rise of more than a third in their share of council tax bills, part of which will raise £60,000 to pay for a marketing campaign and the new post.

The Yorkshire Post revealed yesterday that calls had been made for a clear strategy to be drawn up to drive forward enterprise in Ripon to ensure that the city has the greatest possible chance of attracting major funding and new business to counter the economic slump.

Members of Ripon City Council - which is the parish council - voted on Monday to increase its share of the council tax bill by 20p-a-week to help finance the recruitment of the new chief executive. The bill for the current financial year for an average band D property is £21.11 - although this is due to rise by about a third or £7 to finance other city council services.

The chairman of the council’s finance and general purposes committee, Coun Andrew Williams, said: “In the current economic climate, we are acutely aware that people will be faced with added expenditure.

“While it is a large percentage increase, the actual amount of money is not huge. Local businesses and the voluntary sector have asked for more to be done, and this has to be financed from somewhere. No-one owes Ripon a living, and we have to accept responsibility for our own destiny.”

Efforts are underway to ensure local authorities work closely with the private sector after the Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon, Julian Smith, chaired a meeting involving business leaders, councillors and representatives from leading tourist attractions. Another meeting is planned for Easter to discuss how the economic action plan is progressing.

The Mayor of Ripon, Coun Mick Stanley, said: “We recognise that Ripon is currently fighting well below its actual weight, and that is why we have taken the decision to raise the council tax precept.

“There is a danger that people simply visit nearby attractions like Newby Hall and Fountains Abbey and never bother to come into Ripon. If we are able to attract more people into the city, then we will be able to make sure the local economy thrives.”