A GROUP of businesses has sparked a war of words by claiming a city is being failed by its political leaders.

Ripon and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce said a fresh approach was needed to revitalise the city’s economy, as its members believe Ripon and its hinterland is continuing to fall behind other towns and areas in North Yorkshire.

The chamber said a lack of political leadership and planning issues are seen by businesses as particular concerns.

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A meeting of the chamber heard how the business community could play a more direct role in economic leadership and a plan for a new public-private partnership, including a City Community Partnership led by Ripon City Council and an Economic Development Trust, led by the business community.

The chamber’s deputy chairman, electrical retailer Stephen Craggs, said: “After years of inertia, Ripon needs to move forward.

“We think these proposals will unite the public and private sectors in a common strategy”.

The chamber said it would consult with the Local Enterprise Partnership and invite Mr Smith to chair a summit meeting of council officials and business leaders in the summer.

After the meeting, the chamber issued a statement criticising support given to the city by politicians.

It states: “Politically, Ripon falls outside the main interests of Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council and although well supported by the local MP, still feels an outpost of the Skipton and Ripon parliamentary constituency.

“Leadership is not being provided by Ripon City Council or by the quasi-autonomous Greater Ripon Improvement Partnership, which suffers from fatal structural problems.”

Mayor of Ripon, Councillor Mick Stanley, said he was surprised by the statement given the efforts being undertaken to market and improve the attractiveness of the city through the Ripon City Plan and Discover Ripon schemes.

He said: “The chamber is still a small organisation and not really representative of businesses in Ripon, let alone of businesses in the surrounding area.

“I am certainly not impressed with their political statements which they have made because they don’t understand the way things work.

“Ripon is a parish within a borough. You have work within the problems rather than snipe from outside.”

Ripon district and county councilor Bernard Bateman said he felt the chambers’ statement lacked insight and was “completely over the top”.

He said: “Harrogate Borough and North Yorkshire County councils do deliver for Ripon, while Julian Smith puts in a colossal amount of effort into helping the city regenerate.”