Scandal-hit Welcome to Yorkshire went three times over budget on £250,000 Chelsea Flower Show garden

Scandal-hit tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire is planning to introduce “value-for-money assessments” for its spending on major events after going more than three times over budget on its Chelsea Flower Show garden and promotional activities.

Dame Judi Dench was among the visitors to Welcome to Yorkshire's show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Previously-classified financial reports were released by the privately-run but publicly-funded company earlier this week by new chairman Peter Box. The reports revealed WTY had spent £250,000 on its Chelsea Flower Show activities in May this year - over treble the original £80,000 budget.

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The spending at a time when the tourism agency was arranging an independent investigation into expenses spending by senior managers following the resignation of ex-chief executive Sir Gary Verity in March.

Garden designer Mark Gregory with the plans for his 2019 creation. Picture: Tony Johnson

His departure was followed by the resignation of chairman Ron McMillan in April.

The agency’s financial reports have also revealed it would have run out of money by next month without recently securing a £500,000 loan from North Yorkshire County Council and local authority leaders agreeing to provide an extra £1m in funding.

The Welcome to Yorkshire garden at Chelsea Flower Show was awarded a gold medal by the Royal Horticultural Society and was visited by a vast array of famous faces, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Dame Judi Dench.

The plans for the garden.

Welcome to Yorkshire has previously claimed the show garden generated £16m worth of broadcast coverage after hundreds of articles were run and broadcast by regional and national media outlets.

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 team on this project consistently try to reduce costs by securing services and materials “in kind”. 
“The large amount of coverage received by the 2019 Yorkshire garden is just a part of its value as a great way to showcase Yorkshire to the UK and beyond.  

“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.”

Accommodation spending revealed

Over £5,000 was spent on providing accommodation to WTY staff for the show, with nine people staying for around a week what WTY said was the “cheapest available rental accommodation”.

WTY also paid £1,800 for garden designer Mark Gregory to stay in a flat for 15 nights, with a five-person dry stone walling team staying for 11 nights at a cost of £2,400.

New chairman Peter Box, who is also leader of Wakefield Council, said earlier this week: “This region needs a dynamic, creative and accountable strategic destination marketing organisation, but it must be one that upholds the same values and governance enshrined in the principles of spending public funds.”