EVEN THOUGH the future governance of Welcome to Yorkshire will, inevitably, be shaped by the inquiries which are under way into the financial and personal conduct of former chief executive Sir Gary Verity who resigned after an expenses scandal, there is nothing to stop this body taking affirmative action now to retain public trust.
When publicly-funded organisations like local councils provide grant funding, they expect taxpayers’ money to be spent wisely. And 10 years after Parliament was rocked to its foundation over the eyewatering expenses claimed by MPs, there is a clear case to be made for total transparency so that bodies like WTY can be held fully accountable for expenditure decisions.
This much is clear after Sheffield and Hull councils both announced that they intend to withhold future funding until their outstanding questions about Sir Gary’s resignation – and future governance protocols at the tourism body – have been answered to their full satisfaction. They’re not alone – Harrogate Council leader Richard Cooper suggests all future spending over £250 needs to be published, without exception, in order to restore public confidence as well as the agendas and minutes of board meetings being made public.
And herein lies the rub. As a private-public body, Welcome to Yorkshire’s supporters will highlight the importance of commercial confidentiality when it comes to bidding for those events that have helped to turn tourism here into a £9bn-a-year industry. Without this, the economic and social challenges facing rural and coastal communities would be even more pronounced.
Yet, with Welcome to Yorkshire’s credibility on the line, its remaining directors – and board members – cannot afford to ignore current misgivings. They have nothing to lose – and everything to gain – from using the launch of the 2019 holiday season to commit to total transparency, with immediate effect, to ensure that the endeavour of all staff over the past decade is not compromised.