Welcome to Yorkshire crisis: Resignations continue as half of board quit within 48 hours

Embattled tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire has been plunged deeper into crisis ahead of a crunch meeting on the organisation’s future as half of its board resigned within a 48-hour period.

Four board resignations have followed the announcement that James Mason will be leaving Welcome to Yorkshire.
Four board resignations have followed the announcement that James Mason will be leaving Welcome to Yorkshire.

Three further board members have joined Piece Hall boss Nicky Chance-Thompson in resigning from the agency after it was announced at the start of the week that chief executive James Mason is to leave the organisation in October.

Welcome to Yorkshire confirmed on Friday night that Richard Flint, former CEO of Sky Betting and Gaming and former chair of the CBI in Yorkshire and Humber, Abbi Ollive, head of marketing and sales at Castle Howard, and Sarah Tahamtani, an employment lawyer at Clarion, have all handed in their resignations to the organisation.

A Welcome to Yorkshire spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Abbi Ollive, Richard Flint and Sarah Tahamtani have resigned from the board. We would like to thank them all for the expertise and dedication they have brought to Welcome to Yorkshire.”

Chairman Peter Box is one of the remaining members of the board

Mr Mason is leaving the organisation on October 22 in the midst of a bitter internal row about the handling of a unspecified complaint made against him.

He said earlier this week there was “no link” between the investigation into the complaint - details of which have not been made public by Welcome to Yorkshire - and his decision to leave and has also denied any wrongdoing.

Ms Chance-Thompson’s resignation letter, which was leaked to The Yorkshire Post, said she had felt “very uncomfortable” at the handling of allegations made against Mr Mason and claimed that governance committee findings on the matter had been “dismissed”.

The letter did not specify the nature of the allegations and Welcome to Yorkshire has said that the agency will not comment on any allegations made against any individual “as a matter of principle”.

The resignations leave chairman Peter Box alongside North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les, Mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones and Sheffield Theatres chief executive Dan Bates as the remaining people on the board.

An “informal meeting” of the board is due to take place privately next Thursday to discuss the future of the business, which receives millions in funding from Yorkshire taxpayers.

In a further development, House at Hawes bed and breakfast owner Fiona Gardham has also resigned as a Welcome to Yorkshire ambassador in support of Mr Mason. Susan Briggs, director of the Tourism Network in Masham, writes today in The Yorkshire Post that there has been “an exodus of nine experienced staff” from WtY over the past few months in the lead-up to this crisis.

It comes just weeks after it was announced the Tour de Yorkshire race organised by the agency would not go ahead in 2022.

Council leader will stay on board

North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les said he intends to stay on the board.

Speaking before it was confirmed there had been further board resignations, he said: “I’m still a board member and staying as a board member. The organisation needs some stability.”

He said Thursday’s meeting would “need to look at what the options are” for the future of the agency.

Coun Les said there was still a role for a county-wide agency. “I firmly believe there is a need for an organisation like Welcome to Yorkshire to market Yorkshire. It is better to be around the region in its entirety rather than parts of Yorkshire.”

A spokesperson for Welcome to Yorkshire said: "The board will be meeting on an informal basis on Thursday 30 September to discuss recent developments. A further formal board meeting will be scheduled for October. We will be able to comment further on the way ahead once those discussions have taken place."

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