HOW times change. When Welcome to Yorkshire was being run by former chief executive Sir Gary Verity, he repeatedly argued that it was only possible for the tourism body to bring world-class events, like the Tour de France’s Grand Départ, to this county because of its ‘independence’ from the interference of local authorities lacking vision.
Now the organisation – which, let it be remembered, has been instrumental in raising the national and international profile of Yorkshire – finds itself at the mercy of the public sector, and local taxpayers, as it comes to terms with the fallout from the scandal-hit resignation of Sir Gary and then former chair Ron McMillan.
Its finances became so precarious that it had to secure a £500,000 loan from North Yorkshire County Council – money that comes from the public purse – and local authorities only released another tranche of funding last month on condition of Peter Box, the outgoing leader of Wakefield Council, taking over as chair from Mr McMillan’s successor Keith Stewart.
Yet the latest disclosure – namely that the organisation has just a year to repay half a million pounds to NYCC – will prompt some to ask how it will raise this money and if it will require another ‘bailout’ by council tax payers, even though the loan is secured against a WTY-owned building in York worth a reputed £1m. But it does confirm the need for a wider inquiry into WTY’s past governance – half of its £4m a year budget comes from councils – to ensure past financial failings are never repeated as Welcome to Yorkshire looks to win back the trust of its public and private sector backers.