Scarborough Borough Council investigating value of its relationship with embattled Welcome to Yorkshire

Gary Verity, the former chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, who resigned in March on health grounds following allegations over his expense claims and behaviour towards staff. Picture by James Hardisty.
Gary Verity, the former chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, who resigned in March on health grounds following allegations over his expense claims and behaviour towards staff. Picture by James Hardisty.

Scarborough Borough Council has confirmed it is undertaking an in-depth investigation into its relationship with embattled tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire.

The organisation, whose chief executive Sir Gary Verity resigned on health grounds in March after allegations were made about his expense claims and behaviour towards staff, works closely with the council to promote tourism in the area, including through the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race.

Since Sir Gary’s resignation was reported in The Yorkshire Post, some councils including Sheffield and Hull have suspended their funding to Welcome to Yorkshire, while its chairman Ron McMillan has also left his post. Now, Scarborough Council is urgently assessing if its relationship with the body offers value for money.

The council’s audit committee confirmed the move. Labour leader coun Steve Siddons told a committee meeting: “The timescale is crucial as not everyone thinks that Welcome to Yorkshire will exist in a few months time.”

The £150,000 that the council pays to host the Tour de Yorkshire, which has visited the borough for the past five years, goes to the French co-organiser Amaury Sports Organisation, the meeting heard.

Speaking afterwards, Coun Siddons added: “Over the last three years the council has spent over half a million pounds plus an unknown cost in staff support on the Tour de Yorkshire event.

“Given the current investigations around the financial activities of Welcome to Yorkshire, the event organiser, now is the time to have a full independent audit of the cost benefits of the money spent by Scarborough Council.”

In 2017, the tourism body paid the council around £60,000 to cover staff and support costs for tourism activities.
The council pays Welcome to Yorkshire an annual membership fee of about £20,000.

Two independent investigations into expenses and management culture at Welcome to Yorkshire are underway. The findings are due to be released in June.

A Welcome to Yorkshire spokeswoman said: ‘The Tour de Yorkshire is a joint venture between Welcome to Yorkshire and Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO).

“Local authorities this year have paid between £100,000 and £125,000 to be a start or finish of the Tour de Yorkshire depending on if they host just the men’s race or the men’s and women’s races together.

“Last year, the Tour de Yorkshire generated £98m for the county’s economy with visitor spend up 54 per cent on the previous year. 2.6 million people watched the action at the roadside with 12.5 million people tuning in, in 190 countries across the world.”