Gary Verity will face no action as West Yorkshire Police end Welcome to Yorkshire expenses investigation

Former Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity will face no action after a police investigation into allegations relating to his expense claims was concluded, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Gary Verity resigned from Welcome to Yorkshire in March 2019.

Sir Gary resigned on health grounds as chief executive of the tourism agency in March 2019 in the midst of claims about expense spending and his treatment of staff.

West Yorkshire Police confirmed today it has now concluded an investigation into allegations about expenses spending and decided no further action is to be taken. The police decision is understood to have been taken last month. Welcome to Yorkshire said today it was "focusing on the future" in light of the news.

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Following an independent inquiry ordered by Welcome to Yorkshire and conducted by forensic accountants BDO which concluded last summer, Sir Gary repaid more than £25,000 to the organisation.

Gary Verity was central to bringing the Tour de France to Yorkshire in 2014.

BDO had identified £26,000 of claims considered to be “personal” expenses that were “not incurred wholly for the benefit” of Welcome to Yorkshire, which is a private firm but receives millions of pounds in funding each year from local councils.

Speaking in July 2019 at a press briefing, the agency’s then-interim chairman Keith Stewart said that apart from one claim from another person for less than £200 which had been a “mistake”, all of the personal spending related to Sir Gary and he had repaid the full amount.

The BDO report also highlighted a purchase invoice for £6,600 which “did not reflect the service that was provided to WtY” and the sum was subsequently repaid. Mr Stewart said at the time he was unable to give further details but confirmed the repayment had been made by Sir Gary.

Details of the purchase invoice issue and the expense claims, along with the BDO report, were provided to West Yorkshire Police as the force assessed the matter.

The BDO report also said it was unable to determine whether almost £1m of expenses claimed by board members and senior executives at the organisation over a six-year period had been “reasonable and proportionate” because of a lack of clear spending policies.

A spokesperson for the police said today: “West Yorkshire Police has now concluded its investigation into allegations in relation to expenses claims made by a former employee of Welcome to Yorkshire. No further action will be taken.

"We have contacted Welcome to Yorkshire, notifying them of the outcome of the investigation.”

It comes at the end of another challenging week for Welcome to Yorkshire, which has struggled to deal with the fallout of Sir Gary’s departure 15 months ago from the organisation he established as a replacement for the Yorkshire Tourist Board.

The organisation is seeking emergency funding of £1.4m from local councils across the county but at least three councils have refused the request to date, with further talks planned.

It comes after an expected £1m of business rates funding from North and West Yorkshire councils was withdrawn because of the knock-on effects of coronavirus on local government funding, while WTY lost in the region of £400,000 from suspending membership fees from its private members to help them get through lockdown.

Last year, Welcome to Yorkshire took a £500,000 loan from North Yorkshire County Council to prevent it running out of cash and being unable to pay staff in September.

In October, new chairman Peter Box, the former leader of Wakefield Council, said the tourism agency had operated with a “spend now, worry about it later” culture.

A spokesperson for Welcome to Yorkshire said tonight: "Sir Gary Verity left Welcome to Yorkshire in March 2019. West Yorkshire Police subsequently informed us, following an investigation, that no further action would be taken on allegations regarding an ex-employee. We cannot comment further on this matter.

"Over the past year, Welcome to Yorkshire have made significant changes to our governance and leadership arrangements as well as making significant cost savings. We are focusing on the future and how we can move forward and support the economic recovery of the tourism sector in Yorkshire."

A spokesperson for Sir Gary has been contacted for comment.

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