Now is not the time to withdraw taxpayers’ support for troubled Welcome to Yorkshire (WtY) due to the number of tourism firms needing to bounce back from coronavirus, it has been claimed.
A Richmondshire District Council meeting heard members underline the importance of WtY for the tourism dependent area, but insist its share of a financial bail-out to keep the tourism body afloat this year should be limited to £8,000.
The council’s leader, Councillor Angie Dale said the funding was just a quarter of the £32,000 the tourism body had requested in addition to the £10,000 annual membership fee the authority pays to WtY,
Cllr Dale was speaking two weeks after two directors stepped down from the board of the agency, which has struggled to recover after its former chief executive Sir Gary Verity resigned as allegations emerged over his expenses and treatment of staff.
Sir Gary, who is credited with bringing the Tour de France Grand Depart to Yorkshire and in doing so showcasing Richmondshire to a huge global audience, repaid more than £25,000 to WtY after an independent inquiry identified “personal” expense claims with no business justification.
Ten months on from the agency taking out a £500,000 loan from North Yorkshire County Council to prevent it running out of money, WtY is seeking £1.4m from councils across Yorkshire due to a forecast £1m loss in the business rates it had been expecting following Coronavirus and £400,000 less after suspending firms’ membership fees.
The Richmondshire council meeting was told one authority, Ryedale District Council, had refused to give WtY any extra cash and numerous members backed the decision to limit the bail-out funding and stated the agency was being given its last chance to prove its worth.
Councillor Stuart Parsons said: “I do think we need to be looking at that sort of partnership and deciding whether we want to continue pouring good money after bad.”
However, Councillor Richard Good said he shared concerns over the running of WtY, but said it had undergone “a vast improvement” in recent months.
Cllr Dale said: “It is a completely difference ethos on how they are operating now. They have streamlined the whole organisation and for me it is about giving them the opportunity before they fail on financial hurdles left by predecessors. It is very exciting how they are going to move forward and do things differently.”
The authority’s opposition leader, Councillor Yvonne Peacock, added: “Richmondshire is made up of small businesses that rely on the tourist trade and if ever Welcome to Yorkshire was needed it is now, when we have got to get over the past three months.
“Welcome to Yorkshire has put North Yorkshire on the map as a marvellous place to visit.
“The small businesses have neither the time or the money and some don’t even have websites.
“The amount it has cost us this year is very well spent at a time when we should be being very careful about spending any money.”