Gary Verity repaid almost £45,000 to Welcome to Yorkshire after expenses 'errors'

Former Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity repaid almost £45,000 to the tourist agency following an expenses scandal subsequently investigated by police, the organisation's accounts have revealed.

Gary Verity was chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire from its inception until March 2019. Picture: James Hardisty

After Sir Gary resigned on health grounds in March 2019 amidst concerns about expenses spending and his treatment of staff, the BBC reported it understood he had repaid over £40,000 to the tourism body but the exact figure has never previously been confirmed.

The accounts for the 18 months to September 2019 state: “In the period a director repaid £44,413 of amounts received in prior periods to the company.”

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Sir Gary, who had been the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire since it was formed in 2009 as the successor organisation to the Yorkshire Tourist Board, had been paid a salary of over £240,000 per year before his departure in spring 2019.

Lawyers representing Sir Gary said at the time: "Expenses were submitted in the ordinary course and signed off. However, on review it was agreed that some errors had been made and Sir Gary was content to agree to voluntarily reimburse Welcome to Yorkshire for monies owed."

A subsequent independent investigation by forensic accountants BDO examined £900,000 of expense claims by WTY senior managers and board members over a six-year period. They were unable to determine whether the majority were “reasonable and proportionate” due to a lack of clear policies and details about the business purpose behind such spending.

BDO did identify £26,000 worth of claims considered to be “personal” expenses that were “not incurred wholly for the benefit” of WTY.

In July 2019, Keith Stewart, the then-interim chairman of Welcome to Yorkshire, said that apart from one claim for another person for less than £200 which had been a “mistake”, all of the personal spending related to Sir Gary and he had repaid the full amount.

The BDO report also highlighted a purchase invoice for £6,600 which “did not reflect the service that was provided to WTY” and the sum was subsequently repaid. Mr Stewart said he was unable to give further details but confirmed the repayment had been made by Sir Gary.

West Yorkshire Police also investigated the matter but announced in the summer of last year that officers would be taking no further action.

The accounts reveal that in his final year at Welcome to Yorkshire, in his role as the highest paid director Sir Gary received gross remuneration of £389,388.

That figure is understood to include money received by Sir Gary as part of ‘staff termination costs’ following his departure. Under ‘exceptional expenditure’, the accounts list staff termination costs of £151,568.

In October 2019, a press release issued by Welcome to Yorkshire about the costs relating to the fallout from Sir Gary’s departure listed £151,000 of “payments in lieu of notice, including NI [National Insurance] and pension”.

A spokesman for Sir Gary Verity said at the time it was “entirely false and misleading” to suggest this figure related only to him, and that the £151,000 figure did not reflect what he had received from the company.

Representatives for Sir Gary Verity did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

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