Taxpayers across the region will pay up to £900,000 more to bankroll next year’s Tour de Yorkshire, it has been agreed, as one of the international race’s most loyal supporters announced it would reconsider whether further such events should receive backing from the public purse.
A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s executive heard “most if not all” local authorities responsible for the next year’s start and finish towns and cities of Leyburn, Barnsley, Beverley, Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds, Redcar and Skipton have agreed to pay race organiser ASO up to £100,000 extra if Welcome to Yorkshire fails to raise sufficient sponsorship for the event.
The tourism body approached the councils, which have also approved paying hundreds of thousands of pounds in fees to ASO, to help guarantee the event after the French media group firm stated it was no longer prepared to shoulder any potential losses despite standing to profit from it.
The meeting saw the county council’s leading members pass paying up to £200,000 towards the four-day UCI ProSeries men’s race and two-day women’s event on the condition the authority undertakes two reviews following the sixth edition of the race.
The authority’s deputy leader Councillor Gareth Dadd said twin reviews would examine the event’s impact, such as how much sponsorship and media coverage it generated, and “the principle of support” for one-off events.
Whether public money should be used for cycling races has not been thoroughly examined by any council in the region since council tax was first used to help host the Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014.
The reviews follow growing unease among some of the region’s councillors, and strong opposition being voiced by others, about council tax being prioritised for an elite cycling race over community infrastructure and services as residents left financially struggling from the pandemic are asked to pay more council tax.
Sources at a number of district and borough councils in North Yorkshire say there is little appetite to fund cycling events in the near future, particularly after causing travel disruption and the rain-affected 2019 UCI World Cycling Championships.
However, numerous elected members continue to point towards the economic impact of the events on the region’s economy. An independent study found in 2018 alone the Tour de Yorkshire generated £98 million as some 2.6 million spectators lined the route and others saw some of the area’s most spectacular landscapes on television.
Its backers have also praised Welcome to Yorkshire’s plans to overhaul the Tour de Yorkshire’s image by seeking sponsors for the event to back prevalent societal values, such as equality, diversity, mental health and sustainability.
After county council leader Councillor Carl Les left the meeting as he is a Welcome to Yorkshire board member, Councillor Dadd emphasised to the executive the vote over whether to agree to underwrite next year’s event was “not a decision over Welcome to Yorkshire and its existence” but purely about the Tour de Yorkshire.
He said: “It a vital part or has been a vital part of North Yorkshire’s economy. Now more than ever we shouldn’t be turning our back on opportunities.
“The information that we have received is that all those councils that have a start and finish have been asked to contribute in a similar manner and I think most of them if not all have pledged to do so.
“We have a leadership responsibility in North Yorkshire. As the top tier authority I think we have a duty to support anything that could have potential benefits to tourism.”