Welcome to Yorkshire records £200,000 loss in fallout to Gary Verity's departure

Tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire has recorded a £200,000 loss in its latest published accounts which reveal details of the costs surrounding Sir Gary Verity's departure as chief executive.

Gary Verity resigned as chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire in March 2019.

The organisation’s accounts, covering two years up until March 2020 and published five months late, declare the agency is a going concern after receiving almost £1.2m of emergency funding from local councils over the summer.

A statement from the company said: “It is with huge gratitude that Welcome to Yorkshire acknowledges the support from local authorities across the county and the impact that has had in supporting the tourism industry throughout this difficult time.”

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The plea for extra cash came after £1m of expected business rates pool money was not delivered due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic combined with the organisation’s decision to suspend membership fees for local tourism businesses at the start of the coronavirus crisis.

James Mason has been in charge of Welcome to Yorkshire since January 2020.

The agency’s reputation has been damaged in recent years by the fallout surrounding the departure of former chief executive Sir Gary Verity, who resigned on health grounds in March 2019 amidst allegations about expenses spending and treatment of staff.

Two sets of accounts have been published, covering a combined period of two years. The first set shows that in the 18 months between March 2018 and September 2019, the company reported a deficit of £71,857 - a loss chiefly attributable to more than £430,000 of costs relating to the fallout surrounding Sir Gary’s departure.

The report said: "The directors recognise that the period has been one of significant challenge for the business with the resignation of the former chief executive and a subsequent review of governance and culture within the business.

"The costs associated with the leadership and governance changes in this period are £431,623 in termination payments, legal and professional costs."

Those costs included more than £150,000 of what were termed in the accounts as ‘staff termination costs’, with £280,000 related to 'legal and professional fees' - understood to largely relate to two independent inquiries ordered following Sir Gary's departure.

The accounts state that before these 'exceptional costs', an operating profit of over £270,000 had been generated for the period.

In the six months to the end of March 2020, a further £127,140 deficit was reported - a result attributed in part to costs connected with making redundancies and recruiting a new chief executive in former Bradford City chief operating officer James Mason.

The report said: "The period was one of reduced activity given the seasonality of the events programme and in particular without a major event with the Tour de Yorkshire and UCI World Championship event both being reported in the prior period to September 2019. In this period costs of £113,873 have been incurred on a reduction in headcount and recruitment of a new Chief Executive."

It added: "The appointment of a new Chairman in October 2019, a new Chief Executive in January 2020 and a wider refresh of the board was completed by March 2020. The process to resize the business into a more cost effective and sustainable cost base started in this period, continued after the end of this period and completed in July 2020. The directors anticipate a return to the successful delivery of services and a return to surplus in the year to March 2021."

The accounts are not the first time details have been released by Welcome to Yorkshire about the costs relating to Sir Gary's departure and the subsequent investigations.

In October 2019, a press release issued by Welcome to Yorkshire about the costs relating to his departure listed £151,000 of “payments in lieu of notice, including NI [National Insurance] and pension”.

A spokesman for Sir Gary Verity said at the time it was “entirely false and misleading” to suggest this figure related only to him, and that the £151,000 figure did not reflect what he had received from the company.

Representatives of Sir Gary Verity have been approached for comment following the new publication of the accounts.

Buy Saturday’s Yorkshire Post for a special report on the details of the Welcome to Yorkshire's accounts

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