The Press articles provoked a lot of comment and even provoked a petition. It’s good that people care what happens to it, because it’s part of the city’s streetscape, it’s a thing in the city we call ‘our city’, and residents’ taxes must have paid for it. Some people see it as an important meeting point. I see it as something kind of in the way that I walk round on the way to the bank. Personally I don’t care what happens to it. I don’t find it attractive, particularly since it had that strange little railing added around it. But let’s look past the fountain – which is easy, because it’s low, and isn’t actually a fountain, as it hasn’t done anything fountain-like for some years. It’s now basically a circular (octagonal?) seat. Let’s look past it to the bigger issues. Whether or not we care about the fountain, there are important questions to be asked, part of a bigger picture we should all care about.
Cllr Denise Craghill, in the Press coverage, wanted to highlight the ‘general issues of accountability and democracy’ arising from this story. It isn’t the first time I’ve read of concerns regarding who ‘Make it York’ are accountable to. We may be wondering who ‘Make it York’ are, deciding the fate of ‘our fountain’.
From the various quoted comments, it all looks a bit confusing and opaque, this decision/plan.
The spokesman for Make it York said in the Press ‘our understanding is that works are planned for the autumn’. Which sounds like the decision has been made already, and made by someone else, not them. The updated story in the Press quotes them again, saying ‘no final decision has been taken’, but that ‘the issue will be discussed at the next board meeting’. These meetings of Make it York include some ‘elected members’ (councillors, I think this means) ‘including City of York Council’s chief executive, leader and deputy leader’.
So are these meetings like council meetings, with an agenda we can read in advance, where public representations can be made, perhaps they’re webcast so we can watch the discussion about ‘our fountain’? Because ‘Make it York’ is kind of part of the council, isn’t it? Or not? There’s some information in the links below.
‘Reinvigorate York’ came to mind, which I never really understood either, as it seemed to be about members of the council’s cabinet at the time and Ron Cooke of York Civic Trust getting together and getting a bit irritated with the natural and meaningful layers of the place and saying that certain parts of the city needed expensive makeovers to turn them into ‘world class space’. Which mainly seemed to mean that they might look okay afterwards but that the result could be anywhere in the world. Like King’s Square, which had a fortune spent on it, and which now has expensive paving, but the best bits of it are the bits they changed their mind about, and left alone, like the mulberry tree and Paul Woosey’s bench on the raised part of the square.
If, dear readers, you really care about the Parliament Street fountain, then fight to save it from destruction. But perhaps our time would be better spent asking a few questions about the bigger picture?
It appears that more of the local authority’s responsibilities are disappearing off into rather mysterious separate bits, and it can be difficult to keep track of who is making these decisions, and where and when. Does that matter? I guess it does, judging by the reactions to the story about the fountain. I guess we expect our elected representatives to make decisions about the things residents’ money has paid for, and these days we tend to expect that they’ll do that openly, with consultation. Particularly as increasingly we the public are voluntarily helping with the maintenance of local parks and helping to run the libraries, ‘all in this together’.
My attempts to find more information on Make it York and the fountain, and when and where this decision was taken, if it was a decision –
An interesting piece on Makeit York and other similar organisations — an interesting overview, recommended reading
There’s a brief reference to the removal of the fountain in the reports pack for a meeting on 10 March 2015, during which the Shambles Market changes were also discussed. Make It York took on responsibility for the operation of Shambles Market from 1 April, the available online documents also record.
And a footnote
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Tagged: Parliament St