Welcome to Yorkshire: Wakefield Council to investigate cost of collapse of Welcome to Yorkshire

Wakefield Council has been asked to investigate the financial costs to the local authority over the collapse of Welcome to Yorkshire.

The county’s tourism agency went into administration in March 2022 after council leaders decided to withdraw public funding for the private organisation following years of financial and reputational problems.

Earlier this month, liquidators revealed Welcome to Yorkshire owed more than £3m to creditors at the time of its collapse – 75 per cent more than originally estimated.

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Tony Homewood, independent councillor for Ossett, has called for answers over any financial impact on Wakefield Council.

The original iteration of Welcome to Yorkshire was placed into liquidationThe original iteration of Welcome to Yorkshire was placed into liquidation
The original iteration of Welcome to Yorkshire was placed into liquidation

A written question to Les Shaw, the council’s cabinet member for resources and property, states: “The collapse of Welcome to Yorkshire left sizeable debts. Unsecured creditors are now known to be owed £3,170,469, as opposed to the original £1,803,212, acknowledged by the company in its statement of affairs.

“Can the portfolio holder advise council of any shortfall which Wakefield taxpayers might be expected to make good on for our part in this failure?”

Coun Shaw is expected to give a response to the question at a full council meeting on November 29.

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A report by liquidators Armstrong Watson revealed that Welcome to Yorkshire was in a worse financial situation than had been believed at the time of going into administration. The report said there will be “sufficient funds” to repay some money towards creditors but it is not yet clear how much. It did not list who is owed money.

Claims totalling £9,750 from former members of staff listed as preferential creditors have been repaid in full.

A ‘Statement of Affairs’ document published on Companies House in April 2022 revealed at that stage that Welcome to Yorkshire had £2.1m of identified debts to 67 different creditors.

The company had just over £1m in estimated assets at the time of its collapse. The debt figures included an unpaid tax bill of £296,000.

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That money is expected to be repaid in full and liquidators said talks are ongoing about a potential VAT overpayment which may reduce the final amount being claimed by the tax service.

In January, Wakefield Council leader Denise Jeffery said the local authority was yet to give its backing to a new tourism body for the region. In September 2020, senior councillors in Wakefield refused to help bail out the troubled agency. The council’s officers had advised paying £78,000 of taxpayer cash.

At that time, the organisation was in dire financial straits and was seeking a £1.4m emergency payout. Cabinet members said they believed the money would be better spent locally.