There can be few more striking symbols of both Welcome to Yorkshire’s successes in raising the region’s profile – and the deep management flaws that have come to light in the months since Sir Gary Verity’s departure as chief executive earlier this year – than its Chelsea Flower Show garden.
The organisation has announced it will not be producing a display for Chelsea next year after a decade of multiple award-winning entries that garnered great media interest around the world as the impressive creations were visited by a vast array of royalty and celebrities.
But for all the undoubted broadcast coverage it produced, some tourism businesses in Yorkshire complained of being uncertain over the precise return-on-investment it generated for them. The revelation that the tourism agency went £170,000 over budget on this year’s Chelsea display – just two months after Sir Gary had resigned on health grounds in the midst of expenses and bullying allegations and at a time when independent investigations were being conducted into both matters – highlights how the organisation’s senior management team had seemingly lost sight of both prudent financial practice and the way their behaviour would be perceived by taxpayers whose money supports the organisation.
Documents leaked to The Yorkshire Post today reveal exactly how close the company has come to financial collapse in recent weeks. Whoever ends up replacing Gary Verity as WTY’s chief executive will have no illusions about the scale of the challenge ahead of them. But if they can harness the positive work WTY has done with events like Chelsea and the Tour de France – while reining in the extravagance that has cost the organisation so deeply – everyone in our region will benefit.
We would be worse off without Welcome to Yorkshire; it just needs to be run properly.