James Mason is the new chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire at the Tour de Yorkshire race route reveal at Leeds Civic Hall. Picture Tony Johnson

Talks planned on giving Welcome to Yorkshire extra time to repay £500,000 loan

Bosses at troubled tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire are to meet North Yorkshire County Council representatives to ask for an repayment extension to a £500,000 loan the company received from the local authority to keep it afloat last year.

Saturday, 21st March 2020, 5:45 am

The money is currently due to be repaid in full by November this year but both parties have confirmed a meeting is planned to discuss a possible change in terms.

A final decision will be taken by the council’s executive of elected councillors.

Among the board members at Welcome to Yorkshire, which is a private company but receives millions in funding from local authorities each year, is North Yorkshire County Council’s leader Carl Les.

Gary Fielding, Corporate Director for Strategic Resources for the council, said: “A meeting is planned between us and Welcome to Yorkshire at which we will discuss the loan.

“A decision on any request to change the terms of the loan would need to be taken by our Executive.”

A spokesperson for Welcome to Yorkshire added: “A meeting is planned between ourselves and NYCC at a date still to be confirmed. It will not take place before next month.”

The loan was taken out last September and prevented the financially-troubled organisation from running out of money which would have left it unable to pay staff that month.

Welcome to Yorkshire has struggled to recover from the fallout to the resignation of ex-chief executive Sir Gary Verity last March amidst bullying and expenses spending allegations.

Independent investigators were subsequently unable to determine whether almost £1m of expense claims by Sir Gary and other senior managers had been “reasonable”, with Sir Gary repaying over £25,000 in expenses found to have been incurred “not wholly for the benefit” of WtY.

In October last year, Welcome to Yorkshire was dropped from a £2m marketing campaign for the North York Moors over concerns about its financial stability.

In the same month, former Wakefield Council leader Peter Box was appointed as the company’s new chairman and said it had been operating with a “spend now, worry about it later culture” which he was determined to change.

New chief executive James Mason, who started in the post in January, has spoken of wanting to reduce the tourism agency’s reliance on public funding in future, with taxpayer-funding currently making up around half of its revenue.

Welcome to Yorkshire was given an additional six months to publish its accounts in January as auditors continued to assess whether it could be considered as “going concern”.

The annual accounts of the company for the 2018/19 financial year had been due to be published by December 31.

But the agency was granted permission by Companies House to extend this to June, with the updated accounts now covering an additional six months up to September 2019.

Welcome to Yorkshire said at the time that the extension of time would allow the organisation to “present a broader and more detailed picture of its financial position”.

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