Welcome to Yorkshire: North Yorkshire County Council leader on 'severe disappointment' of tourism board

The leader of one of Yorkshire’s largest councils has spoken of his disappointment in the aftermath of scandals that have rocked Welcome to Yorkshire as he defended the authority’s decision to bail out the tourist organisation with a £500,000 loan.

Councillor Carl Les

North Yorkshire County Council has provided Welcome to Yorkshire with a series of funding packages to ensure the visitor body can continue to operate amid a major financial crisis.

Its leader, Carl Les, sits on the board of the Welcome to Yorkshire, which was hit by accusations of bullying and financial mismanagement in 2019.

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North Yorkshire County Council lent £500,000 to keep the organisation afloat, a decision which Coun Les took no part in due to the conflict of interest.

The loan, secured against a £1m property in York, is due to be paid back in full by next April, having been extended from this November. Coun Les said: “There have been some severe disappointments in parts of the working of Welcome to Yorkshire over the years.

“It’s a new team now, with a new chief executive and new board – there’s a couple of us kept on to keep some sort of continuity. We still have the same guiding principle that we need to promote Yorkshire outside and inside.

“It was very shocking. There’s no excuse for bad behaviour in regards to dealing with employees or financial matters. When you found out someone wasn’t doing things the right way – it was disappointing in the extreme.”

Speaking about the loan to Welcome to Yorkshire, Coun Les added: “I recused myself from those decisions and that process was led by my deputy. The loan was secured against the property which was just sold for over a million pounds.

“There was no risk to the county council in that respect, and we also got a rate of interest. The council got a better return than if we’d left it sitting in the bank.”

A Welcome to Yorkshire spokesperson said: “Welcome to Yorkshire can confirm that the loan from North Yorkshire County Council will be fully paid back within the agreed timescale.”

Welcome to Yorkshire was hit by a scandal in 2019 when it emerged that its former chief executive, Sir Gary Verity, had faced accusations of expenses mismanagement and poor behaviour towards staff.

In the aftermath of Sir Gary’s resignation, councils lent £1.2m in emergency funding to the body.

The costs associated with his departure amounted to some £431,000 in redundancy and legal costs.