Leeds & West Yorkshire

Welcome to Yorkshire: £1m "more cost-effective" than closure

Tour De Yorkshire Image copyright PA
Image caption Welcome to Yorkshire runs the UK's biggest domestic cycling race, the Tour De Yorkshire

Giving £1m to tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire (WtY) is "more cost-effective" than closing it down, a council leader has said.

Kirklees Council chief executive Jacqui Gedman recommended a new board be recruited "immediately" as regional bosses agreed to the funding.

An inquiry in July showed the firm had little oversight on its expenditure.

WtY's interim chair Keith Stewart said he was "standing down" from his position following the decision.

The tourism organisation is a private company but receives more than £1m in public funding each year from councils across the region.

Ms Gedman said figures presented to her by the WtY board showed "it would be over £3m to close it down" and a replacement company would have to be set up instead, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

She added a report into its financial position showed the organisation could recover but needed certainty over its immediate funding.

"It's fair to say that it would be more cost-effective to release the £1m and to try to size the organisation appropriately going forward than it would be to close it down.

"It is important to know that it would have to have been a managed closedown and it would not have taken place until April next year."

Recommendations

  • A public report on progress in advance of future funding tranches being released.
  • Recruitment of a new WtY board is carried out immediately.
  • Interim chair arrangements cease with immediate effect.
  • A public sector appointee becomes interim chair for up to 12 months and the new board is in place no later than the end of the financial year.
  • A chief executive is appointed as soon as possible through a clear and transparent process. Until then Jacqui Gedman is asked to provide strategic support to WtY.
  • Previously confidential reports into WtY be made public, but with commercially sensitive detail removed.
  • A four month consultation process about the future of regional tourism is carried out and led by the public sector.

Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said: "I welcome the move to making sure that everything is done in the most open and transparent way possible."

Scarborough Borough Council leader Steve Siddons said: "We have to give the organisation a chance to reinvent itself. We would have to replace it with something if we didn't have WtY in place."

"Tourism in Yorkshire is really taking off and the Yorkshire brand is very important for a lot of us," added Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe.

Image copyright Local Democracy Reporting Service
Image caption Lord Paul Scriven had called on the whole board of WtY to resign over the running of the company and described a £500,000 loan from North Yorkshire County Council as a taxpayers' "bailout"

The public report said WtY's financial position was "challenging and there are cashflow issues due to a number of factors, including the one-off costs associated with the investigations and the pause of and/or reprofiling of public sector funding".

It also noted the organisation had use of a loan provided by North Yorkshire County Council "for the past four years".

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