A BUSKER claims York council officials behaved heavy-handedly when they cautioned him and suspended his busking permit following a dispute over his CDs.

Jonny Walker said the authority charged street performers £40 a day if they wanted to sell CDs of their music, which was a lot of money for people performing for free in rain or shine.

He said he therefore wrote a sign saying: “CD available, suggested contribution £7, these CDs are not being offered for sale, contributions are voluntary and at your discretion.”

However, council employees approached him in Parliament Street on Wednesday, accused him of street trading and told him to take the sign down or he would lose his busking permit.

Police were called and a licensing enforcement officer gave him a caution and his licence has since been suspended.

Mr Walker, from Leeds, said he had founded the Association of Street Artists and Performers because, across the country, local authorities were getting heavy handed with people who only wanted to perform on the streets.

He said: “Public space belongs to all of us, and the high streets, under pressure from internet shopping, out-of-town developments, high rents and the dire economic situation, need to be full of life and music to keep people’s spirits up.

“Instead of sending six public servants to try to intimidate a street musician, why doesn’t the local authority work with the street artists and performers to build a sense of community?”

He said he wanted to find a way of working positively with the council to build more cooperative relationships with buskers.

Gill Cooper, City of York Council’s head of culture, tourism and city centre, said: “We are currently undergoing an investigation into this and other associated matters and cannot comment on specifics, but we can confirm that two city centre officers and then two licensing officers were called out yesterday.

“A caution was issued for illegal street-trading and a busking permit suspended subject to a detailed investigation.”

She said the terms of agreement of the permit were drawn up with the police and Safer York partnership, and all applicants signed up to them.

“The 250 street entertainers we currently licence and work with add to the ambience and attraction of a vibrant city centre and we welcome Mr Walker’s willingness in ‘working positively with City of York Council to build more co-operative relationships’.”