The leader of North Yorkshire County Council, which spends £84,000 of taxpayers’ money every year on funding tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire, has criticised other local authorities for “threatening its very existence” by suspending their subscriptions to the company.
Councillor Carl Les has issued a rallying cry for the agency as independent investigations continue following the resignation of its chief executive Sir Gary Verity and concerns being raised about his expenses claims and behaviour towards staff.
The Conservative councillor has spoken out almost a month after both Hull and Sheffield councils said they would not be making any further contributions until the investigations are completed and any actions or changes recommended by the inquiries are implemented.
Julie Dore, Sheffield council’s leader, said: “We have not paid our subscription so far this year, so I am more than prepared to delay that until we have a satisfactory response that Sheffield council taxpayers money has not been misappropriated.”
It is understood the inquiries are scheduled to be completed before the end of next month, but in the meantime Cllr Les has sought to bolster Welcome to Yorkshire, following the sudden departure of Sir Gary who played a key role in Yorkshire staging the Tour de France’s Grand Depart and developing the region as a cycling destination.
In a speech to a full meeting of the North Yorkshire authority next week, Cllr Les, who is a member of the tourism body’s 12-person board, will tell councillors that Welcome to Yorkshire continues to represent outstanding value for money for taxpayers.
Ahead of the speech, he said he was speaking out as councils suspending subscriptions to Welcome to Yorkshire “threatened its very existence” as it continued to deliver successful events such as the Tour de Yorkshire, the World Cycling Championships..
He said while Sir Gary had been a high-profile figure at the tourism body, the organisation was far more than just one person.
Cllr Les said: “Some councils have decided to withhold their subscriptions to Welcome to Yorkshire. I think this is a mistake.
“Whatever is found to be wrong will be put right, but nobody can doubt the enormous success that Welcome to Yorkshire has had in increasing the visitor economy from £4bn ten years ago to £9bn today.
“This success needs to continue, and we need to support the team of over 40 staff who deliver not just a world class cycle event annually, but many other major and also very local events that have transformed public perceptions that Yorkshire, especially North Yorkshire, is a great place to visit.”