Troubled Welcome to Yorkshire misses deadline to file annual accounts

Welcome to Yorkshire's finances are under the spotlight. Picture: James Hardisty
Welcome to Yorkshire's finances are under the spotlight. Picture: James Hardisty
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Troubled tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire has missed a deadline for the publication of its annual accounts as auditors continue to assess whether the organisation is still viable, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

The private company, which is part-funded through millions from local councils but has struggled to recover from the fallout from ex-chief executive Sir Gary Verity’s resignation last March in the midst of bullying and expenses allegations, had been due to publish its accounts for the 2018/19 financial year by December 31.

The organisation has endured a difficult year since the resignation of ex-chief executive Sir Gary Verity.

The organisation has endured a difficult year since the resignation of ex-chief executive Sir Gary Verity.

The report is due to contain an assessment from auditors on whether the organisation is a “going concern” and financially sustainable for the foreseeable future.

But the accounts are yet to be published, with Welcome to Yorkshire saying today they will be completed “as soon as possible”.

In August last year, a report by a Local Government Association advisor and an independent advisor to regional council chief executives warned at that stage “it would seem unlikely that the auditor could easily conclude that Welcome to Yorkshire is a going concern” when the 2018/19 accounts were filed by the deadline of December 31.

In September, Welcome to Yorkshire took out a £500,000 loan from North Yorkshire County Council. It was subsequently revealed that the company, which does not have an overdraft facility, would have “run out of cash” that month without the loan and been unable to pay staff.

Welcome to Yorkshire currently has until November this year to repay the loan in full, which is secured against a £1m building the tourism agency owns in York.

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.

The organisation has appointed former Bradford City Football Club chief operating officer James Mason as its new chief executive, joining former Wakefield Council leader Peter Box who has recently become its chairman after interim chairman Keith Stewart was ousted by council bosses.

Mr Box said in October following his appointment that Welcome to Yorkshire had been operating with a “spend now, worry about it later culture” which he was determined to change. The company subsequently announced it would not be attending the Chelsea Flower Show in 2020 after its 2019 garden had gone £170,000 over budget.

New board members are also being appointed, with their first meeting due later this month.

A spokesperson for Welcome to Yorkshire said today: “The publishing of the accounts, year ending March 31 2019, was delayed due to the audit process being put on hold last year whilst independent investigations were carried out into the organisation’s expenses, governance, culture and management.

“Given the Welcome to Yorkshire Board structure has recently been refreshed, it is also important that new board members are given the appropriate time to fulfil their corporate governance responsibilities when approving these accounts. Welcome to Yorkshire is currently working with the auditors to complete the process as soon as possible.”

When asked whether the company is able to say at this stage whether the auditors have assessed if Welcome to Yorkshire is still a going concern, the spokesperson said: “The auditors are still carrying out their detailed work.”