Statement from Cllr Peter Box
“I promised when I became Chair, that the Board and I would operate in an open and transparent manner. I am fulfilling that commitment by today releasing, in full, two recent reports about Welcome to Yorkshire (WTY).
“One report is authored by the former WTY chair, to the political leaders in West and North Yorkshire, and outlined funding options for the organisation. The second independent report by a Local Government advisor and an independent finance specialist was commissioned by the chief executive of Kirklees Council, on behalf of local authorities in the North and West Yorkshire Business Rate Pool, to review the financial position of WTY in order to help inform future funding decisions.
“It’s clear to me, from reading both reports that governance and strategic oversight of the operations of WTY have been largely absent. Financial planning was not robust enough which led to a culture of spend now, worry about it later.
“These reports provided leaders across the region with the evidence that led to the decision to invest £1 million of public money dependent upon certain condition being met*. Political leaders across the region are clear that continued investment of public funds is dependent on significant change in accountability, transparency and governance of public resources.
“The options before us were stark, including the managed closure of WTY. That would have been bad for the region and, obviously bad for the hard-working frontline staff who I have the greatest admiration for. This region needs a dynamic, creative and accountable strategic destination marketing organisation, but it must be one that upholds the same values and governance enshrined in the principles of spending public funds.
“You cannot run any organisation – public or private – based on the ‘cult of personality’. Stronger governance, financial planning and a long term, strategic plan are my priorities, along with the recruitment of new Board members and a chief executive. Since taking up my role, I’ve been heartened by the messages of support, including from people who are interested in joining the Board.
“I believe we can succeed in rejuvenating Welcome to Yorkshire and capitalise on our greatest assets: the people of Yorkshire, our stunning countryside and coastlines, our towns, cities, dales and valleys.
“A vibrant county as diversely rich and creative as ours deserves an organisation that holds the confidence and trust of its Board, staff, customers and stakeholders close to its heart.”
The reports below were prepared in August and September 2019 to be presented to the Business Rates Pool Joint Committee meeting in early October. The North and West Yorkshire Business Rates Pool Joint Committee previously agreed to fund subscription and activity costs to WtY for the financial year 2019/20 and this decision informed the WtY budget strategy for 2019/20. The reports were looking at potential outcomes for Welcome to Yorkshire if Local Authority funding was further withheld or withdrawn completely. As the BRP voted to release the funding, these potential outcomes are no longer applicable.
Note to Editors
*Conditions of £1m investment of public funds to WTY
- Immediate recruitment of a new WTY board, (public sector appointees to continue to serve until end of their terms) which the interim chair arrangements ceasing from 7th October;
- A public sector chair to be appointed as from 7th October and the new board in place before the end of the financial year;
- Recruitment of a new WTY chief executive to start immediately and publicly;
- Until this process is complete Jacqui Gedman, chief executive of Kirklees Council, to provide WTY with strategic support and authority to draw down BRP funding as required;
- A public sector-led four-month consultation about the future of regional tourism to be launched
The report titled Welcome to Yorkshire proposal to West and North Yorkshire Leaders, under the section headed ‘Immediate Financial Situation’ the breakdown under the first bullet point is as follows:
Investigation costs: £168k
Accounting, tax, audit advice: £7.5k
Legal costs: £42k
Comms costs: £24k
Additional staff resources: £17k
Consultation on new tourism strategy: £24k
Recruitment and search costs for CEO role: £49k
Payments in lieu of notice, including NI and pension: £151k
Total cost £482.5k*
*This total is larger than the figure contained in both reports, as these are latest, updated figures