Why there are disturbing questions on governance of Welcome to Yorkshire - Yorkshire Post letters

From: Tony Stephens, Pannal.

Sir Gary Verity is the former chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire.

THE recent, albeit redacted, reports issued by the new Welcome to Yorkshire chair, Peter Box, make interesting and disturbing reading, particularly as the reports are dated August 2019 and now almost two months old (Tom Richmond, The Yorkshire Post, October 1).

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First, why are the residents of North and West Yorkshire being required to effectively ‘bail out’ the organisation? When the reports are read together it’s clear that the ‘business’ folds sometime this fiscal year without both the West Yorkshire Business Rates Pool injection and North Yorkshire County Council loan.

Longstanding Wakefield Council leader Peter Box is the new chair of Welcome to Yorkshire.

It’s equally clear that the likely threat to withhold the additional £200,000 Section 106 funding from North York Moors National Park brings further instability. Similarly, where are similar cash injections from East and South Yorkshire authorities – do they know something we don’t in terms of not flogging a dead horse?

Secondly, if the costs of closedown are £3.2m and WTY have a million pound asset in York (the proposed collateral for the NYCC loan), this infers a total liability of £4.2m – an astonishing sum for a business with only £600k in reserves at the last year end.

Additionally, the section on pension liabilities states: “This figure will increase as there is no estimate available at this stage for the negative effect on the NYCC pension fund as a triennial valuation is currently underway.”

Did local councils do enough to scutinise former Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity?

Are you stating that staff employed by a private company have been given access to public sector pensions through some ‘‘admitted body status’’ – a private company that has no accountability for declaring use of its public funds, one that is being audited and will “be the first time that the organisation has received a qualified opinion to its accounts”?

Still if you like sloppiness look at section of the report which states that: “Draft accounts for 2019/20 have been prepared and the audit begins in October with a deadline of 31st December to publish audited final accounts.” Accounts for 2018/19 surely – but this appears symptomatic of attention ‘directors’ have applied to their roles and is a sad indictment of the quality of public leadership that we currently endure.

Overall this looks like one of the worst cases of corporate governance in any supposed public/private partnership for a long time – the public representatives should be ashamed for their part – and the electorates across the county should hold their failure to account.