IT will be remiss of councillors not to take full account of the fragile state of Welcome to Yorkshire’s finances when they decide whether to allocate £1m – the next tranche of funding – to the tourism body.
They know that Welcome to Yorkshire has helped – with others – to transform the reputation, and profile, of this county since its inception a decade ago and its work remains integral to the success, and value, of the wider regional economy.
Equally they cannot afford to ignore the report being presented to North and West Yorkshire Business Rates Joint Committee which confirms that WTY’s “financial position” is “challenging” and “current cash flow issues” have led to delays enacting governance reforms ordered after former chief executive Sir Gary Verity and ex-chairman Ron McMillan resigned.
And while the report makes clear that continued funding will “bring stability to the organisation” and enable Welcome to Yorkshire “to deliver events”, councillors will be failing in their democratic duty if they do not seek certain safeguards – even more so after it emerged that North Yorkshire County Council had, in a separate transaction, loaned £500,000 to WTY for expenditure still unspecified.
Primarily, there should be total transparency over all aspects of WTY’s work – minutes from board meetings point to a company that has been poorly run with ineffectual management oversight.
Furthermore, councillors should know how their money – taxpayers’ money – is going to be spent and be satisfied that future funding is linked to reform. That means tourism leaders setting out plans, and objectives, each year before seeking the support of councils and partners. Town hall chiefs expect high standards from contractors – and their dealings with Welcome to Yorkshire should be no different.