Welcome to Yorkshire chair Peter Box calls off AGM he was due to resign at to hold 'review' of firm's future

Council bosses will determine whether troubled tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire still has a future with under-fire chairman Peter Box staying on until the review is completed - after he postponed the AGM he had been due to resign at.

Welcome to Yorkshire had ordered an emergency board meeting after the announcement that chief executive James Mason would be leaving the organisation was followed by half of the eight-person board resigning in protest.

Mr Box, the former leader of Wakefield Council, had previously announced his intention to step down as chairman at the agency’s AGM at the start of November following the series of board resignations. But he said the AGM was now being postponed indefinitely until local councils and other stakeholders which provide funding to Welcome to Yorkshire have decided on its future.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“The board have in private reviewed both the organisation’s finances and its commercial plan,” he said. “The board are confident that the team are working hard to ensure the future of Welcome to Yorkshire. The board are unanimous in saying there is a need for a Yorkshire-wide DMO [Destination Marketing Organisation].”

Peter Box is to stay on at Welcome to Yorkshire for the foreseeable future

Mr Box said a recent Government-commissioned review suggesting key tourism agencies receive guaranteed multi-year funding from the Government and giving them a more strategic role in driving economic performance meant it was “timely and appropriate to undertake a wide consultation with local authority leaders, mayors, stakeholders, and other representatives from the sector on how these new objectives can be met”.

“It is the board’s intention that this consultation should start quickly and be completed as soon as possible,” he said. “In the circumstances, the board have agreed the AGM be postponed until that consultation has been completed.

“The board can confirm that interim arrangements regarding the organisation’s leadership will be dealt with expeditiously and any interim appointment would include board membership.”

Mr Mason, who is leaving Welcome to Yorkshire today, attended the meeting and Mr Box told him: “On behalf of board members, past and present, I would like to wish you all the best for the future. We’ve had some good times working together and hopefully our paths will cross again at future events.”

Mr Box added that he also wished the resigning board members “all the best for the future”.

The public section of the meeting last night lasted less than 15 minutes and did not discuss the circumstances around Mr Mason’s departure following unspecified allegations about his conduct and the subsequent resignations of board members.

The agenda for the meeting included an item on governance but Mr Box said: “I think on governance we have dealt with that on my report on what we need to do going forward.”

The meeting heard that Welcome to Yorkshire has now sold a building it owns in York and used the money to repay a £500,000 loan it owed to North Yorkshire County Council, whose leader Carl Les is among the remaining board members. No details were provided about how much the building was sold for and how much was repaid to North Yorkshire County Council for the loan, which was taken out in September 2019 and had a seven per cent interest rate.

Mr Mason said he was “immensely proud” to have been chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire.

“I believe I am leaving an organisation now that is in good shape,” he said. “I’d like everyone to give the team some breathing space.

“There’s many businesses that have faced extinction over the last few years and gone out of business so while some people may not think it’s an achievement to still be here, I actually do.

“There’s many businesses that have stayed with Welcome to Yorkshire and over the last few months, I’m not going to say it has grown but it has plateaued and continues to do that so well done to the commercial team. There’s lots of reasons to be cheerful.”

Mr Box closed the meeting by saying: “In the light of the consultation I’m now going to undertake with the people I mentioned earlier in my report, there will not now be an AGM on November 1. Our next scheduled meeting is November 18.”

The cancellation of the AGM also delays the departure of another board member, Dan Bates, who had been due to step down at the meeting.

Following the meeting, The Yorkshire Post asked Welcome to Yorkshire how much the York building had sold for and what was paid to North Yorkshire County Council, what the scope of the review and what is its timeline, when the AGM is likely to be rearranged for, what plans there are for the appointment of an interim chief executive and any other board members and if it could be confirmed Mr Box was staying in post.

A spokesperson said: “There will be no further statements from Welcome to Yorkshire this evening.”

Susan Briggs, from the Tourism Network in Masham, attended the meeting and said she was shocked by the lack of transparency.

“It was farcical and a travesty,” she said.

“They never mentioned the tourism industry or businesses they are supposed to represent.

“There was no mention of how long the review will take or the process for it. That was the death throes of a failing organisation.”

Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you'll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe.