Peter Box quitting as Welcome to Yorkshire chair as departures continue at tourism agency

Welcome to Yorkshire chairman Peter Box is stepping down from the troubled tourism agency - which is soon to be left with only two remaining board members, it can be revealed.

Peter Box is to step down as chairman of Welcome to Yorkshire.

Speaking to the Wakefield Express ahead of a crunch meeting tonight about the future of the organisation following the recent resignations of chief executive James Mason and four board members, Mr Box said he did not expect to remain in post after the agency’s AGM at the start of November.

“I can’t see me chairing Welcome to Yorkshire after the AGM on November 1,” said Mr Box, the former Labour leader of Wakefield Council.

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In a statement to The Yorkshire Post last night, the agency confirmed Mr Box would be departing.

Peter Box was appointed as Welcome to Yorkshire chairman following the fallout to Sir Gary Verity's departure as chief executive.

A spokesperson said: “Having completed the tasks asked of him by local government, Peter has made it known that he will not stand as chair at the WTY AGM in November.”

Mr Box was initially appointed as chair in October 2019 for 12 months in the fallout to Sir Gary Verity’s departure as chief executive and it was agreed earlier this year that he would stay on “until at least the AGM”.

He said he felt he completed the tasks initially asked of him by local Government leaders - including appointing a new chief executive, refreshing the board and overseeing a governance review which is due to be completed by the AGM in November.

Another task - the publication of two independent investigations into expenses spending and management culture at the organisation under Sir Gary Verity - was completed before he was appointed.

He told the Wakefield Express he felt he had achieved what was asked of him.

“When I took on the role it was only for a short period and that suited me, I never envisaged it as a long-term thing.”

It follows a dramatic 10 days for the agency after it was announced on Monday, September 20 that chief executive James Mason would be leaving on October 22.

At the time, Mr Mason said there was “no link” between his departure and an investigation into unspecified allegations about his conduct.

But last Thursday, board member Nicky Chance-Thompson resigned from the organisation on the grounds that she had been left “very uncomfortable” about the handling of an investigation into a complaint about Mr Mason.

She said her main area of concern was that “governance committee findings on the matter appear to have been dismissed without the board having the opportunity to properly consider them”.

Welcome to Yorkshire, which receives millions of pounds in public funding, has continued to refuse to comment on any detail of the investigation “as a matter of principle”.

On Friday, it was confirmed that three more board members - Richard Flint, Sarah Tahamtani and Abbi Ollive - had also resigned. It meant that only four board members were left in post - Peter Box, North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les, Mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones and Sheffield Theatres chief executive Dan Bates.

However, Mr Bates is already due to leave the organisation after the next AGM in line with an earlier agreement - meaning Mr Box’s departure leaves just two remaining board members.

When asked by The Yorkshire Post whether the board would still be capable of operating with only two members, a Welcome to Yorkshire spokesperson said: “The Welcome to Yorkshire board will discuss the process and replacement of board members at future board meetings.”

Following reports of an “exodus” of experienced staff in recent months, Welcome to Yorkshire also confirmed last night that its director of governance and director of development have also handed in their notices. The agency said their departures were “not connected to the issues surrounding the investigation”.

Peter Box told the Wakefield Express that despite the recent resignations at Welcome to Yorkshire, it remained “business as usual” at the tourism agency.

He expressed his disappointment that the board members who had resigned were not able to stay and support the organisation but added: “I’d very much like to thank them for their contribution during what has been a particularly turbulent time for tourism and wish them well for the future. At the moment it’s business as usual - we’ve got a chief executive in post until October 22.”

Mr Box said while he feels most people still support the existence of a Yorkshire-wide organisation to promote the county, he questioned whether Welcome to Yorkshire remained the right vehicle to do it.

“Is there a better way of delivering an effective tourism board for the county?,” he said.

The Yorkshire Post attempted to contact Mr Box but he did not respond. Welcome to Yorkshire has again refused to comment on detail of the circumstances and handling of the investigation involving Mr Mason.

Meeting to take place behind closed doors

Tonight’s Welcome to Yorkshire meeting between remaining board members about the future of the organisation will take place behind closed doors after being classified by the agency as an “informal discussion”.

A spokesperson said: “The meeting of Welcome to Yorkshire’s board will take place at 5pm and will be an informal discussion following the resignation announcements of four members of the Welcome to Yorkshire board and the resignation of chief executive James Mason. Mr Mason will stay in post until October 22.”

An interim board meeting due to be held in public is to be organised for early October.

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