The tourism agency had presented a garden at the event in London for 10 years in a row – with this year’s effort in May involving a canal lock built from reclaimed York stone, a lock keeper’s cottage, authentic lock gates and a perennial meadow.
Garden designer Mark Gregory’s creation won a gold medal from the Royal Horticultural Society, while it was visited by a host of famous faces at Chelsea including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Dame Judi Dench.
But it was revealed last week that the garden display – which took place as a sweeping investigation into expenses spending by senior managers including ex-chief executive Sir Gary Verity was under way – cost £250,000; more than treble the original £80,000 budget.
The increased cost was highlighted as one of three key reasons, along with the costs from the fallout to Sir Gary’s resignation and the subsequently-ordered independent inquiries and the potential loss of Welcome to Yorkshire’s involvement in a marketing campaign for the North York Moors, why the organisation was facing cashflow problems that contributed to it taking up the option of a £500,000 loan from North Yorkshire County Council.
Almost £10,000 was spent on staff accommodation costs alone – including over £5,000 on accommodation for nine WTY staff for around a week, £2,400 for an 11-night stay for a five-person dry stone walling team and an additional £1,800 for Mr Gregory to stay in a flat for 15 nights.
Peter Box, the new chairman of WTY, said the organisation will not be appearing at Chelsea in 2020 – and would instead use the saved money for a new county-wide campaign.
“After 10 successful years of promoting Yorkshire at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the team and I have taken the decision to pause our involvement in the show in 2020,” he said.
“Our previous gardens have showcased the county to millions of people across the world and have won numerous top accolades.
“However, all Welcome to Yorkshire events and activities are being fully evaluated and if and when we decide to take another slice of Yorkshire to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the garden will be fully funded.
“We have decided instead to use the budget for Chelsea 2020 to create a new, exciting, multi-platform campaign that will be county-wide.
“We look forward to announcing this campaign in the spring of next year.”
Welcome to Yorkshire has previously claimed the 2019 show garden generated £16m worth of broadcast coverage after hundreds of articles were run and broadcast by regional and national media outlets.
Sir Gary’s departure on health grounds in March in the midst of bullying and expense claims allegations was followed in April by the resignation of chairman Ron McMillan.
Last week, a spokesperson for WTY said of the budget overspend: “It’s difficult for us to comment on past decisions that may have been taken by the former chief executive and/or chair, but this is why the new chair is keen to have a ‘value for money’ assessment on all major events.
“The nature of large scale events mean they have to be planned well in advance and the work on a Chelsea Show Garden takes almost a full year. The new chair wants the frontline staff at WTY to think big and continue to be creative but also to ensure that the financial planning for such large scale events is robust and can evidence a return on the investment made.”