Sheffield Council is to suspend its annual £50,000 funding for Welcome to Yorkshire after investigations were announced into expense claims and bullying allegations relating to the tourism agency’s ex-chief executive Sir Gary Verity.
The council has paused its subscription until it is reassured that taxpayers’ money has not been “misappropriated”.
Council Leader Julie Dore agreed to an urgent motion which Coun Paul Scriven raised at full council.
He said: “In light of the issues that have emerged at Welcome to Yorkshire over the last 24 hours – of over £40,000 of expenses being falsely claimed, internal investigations being set up and West Yorkshire Police now looking into possible criminal offences.
“Will the council suspend its £50,000 membership fee until such time as West Yorkshire Police and the internal investigations have been completed to ensure that Sheffield council tax payers money is safe?”
Coun Dore agreed. She said: “These are still allegations, that £40,000 has been misappropriated, and there is a thorough investigation still going on.
“When we were alerted to this I had a discussion with our chief executive and we have written to Welcome to Yorkshire to ensure the council’s contribution has been used appropriately so we were awaiting the outcome of that letter to then decide what we wanted to do next.
“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 came just hours after hundreds of people attended Welcome to Yorkshire’s tenth anniversary celebrations in Leeds, where commercial director Peter Dodd told the audience the organisation had been through a difficult time in the past few weeks.
“We are all here to celebrate what this county has achieved in the past ten years and its very exciting future,” he said. “But there is no denying for us at Welcome to Yorkshire the last month has been an incredibly challenging time and we have had to face up to some very sobering issues.
“There is no doubt that lessons will be learnt.”
The Sheffield Council decision comes days after the Leeds City Region’s business rates pool board, which is made up of the leaders of seven local councils in West and North Yorkshire, demanded an urgent meeting with Welcome to Yorkshire bosses to discuss what conditions its members will require to give further public money to the organisation.
West Yorkshire Police has also asked for talks with the tourism agency, which is a private company but receives millions in public funding.
Board member Keith Stewart confirmed a meeting with police officers will take place soon in relation to two independent inquiries the agency has just ordered.
He said: “There will be a meeting fairly shortly between some of the board and West Yorkshire Police.
“If there is anything that is thrown up by the independent investigations that we think are police matters we will obviously pass them to the police.
“We have nothing to hide.”