Welcome to Yorkshire bosses plan diversity drive with help of Leeds legal firm

Tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire is working with a legal firm to improve its approach to diversity issues, it has been revealed.

The agency has called in Clarion Solicitors to help it to develop stronger diversity, equality and inclusion standards.

Chief executive James Mason told a board meeting last Thursday: “Diversity, equality and inclusion at Welcome to Yorkshire is something we take very seriously.

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“We want to represent a modern Yorkshire. At a recent strategic away day, we committed to challenging the way we work from top to bottom. We are doing some work with Clarion solicitors to develop a paper to shape our approach.”

James Mason, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Mason said the process has just begun so costs are uncertain but funds will be committed if required. The agency has been seeking a £1.4m bailout from local authorities this year after its finances were hit by the Covid pandemic,

Leeds-based Clarion previously conducted an independent inquiry for Welcome to Yorkshire into the organisation’s management practices following complaints about the treatment of staff under former chief executive Sir Gary Verity, who left in March 2019.

The Clarion report in July 2019 found Sir Gary “fell short of the highest performance and leadership standards... we find would be reasonably expected of a CEO”.

One of the recommendations of the report was that staff were trained “with regard to equality and diversity, and anti-harassment and bullying”.

In January 2020, Sarah Tahamtani, a partner and head of the employment practice at Clarion, was appointed to the WtY board.

Speaking after the board meeting, Mr Mason said that the work was in its early stages and has not cost WtY anything at this time. But he added it was an important step for the organisation.

“When I was appointed, I wanted to really demonstrate the diversity of the county in all our output,” he said.

"We don't want all our output to just be white people because Yorkshire isn't only white people and we don't want only able-bodied people in our output for the same reason.

“We are going to put a paper together and we are committed to it. What it costs, it costs. We have not budgeted for it, we are not spending anything on it yet. We are in the very early stages.”

He said WtY is already working with accessibility charity Access for All.

Mr Mason told the board meeting that to tie the organisation’s inclusivity approach with its new 'Walkshire' campaign, it is intended that all of the agency’s employees will take part in the Leeds Black History Walk.

The general leadership of Mr Mason, who joined Welcome to Yorkshire in January, was praised by board member Nicky Chance-Thompson, chief executive of Halifax’s Piece Hall.

“I can see some really positive change,” she said. “James has stepped into the breach and him and his team have done a tremendous job.”

Next year 'to bring further challenges'

James Mason has said 2021 promises to be an even more challenging year for Welcome to Yorkshire.

The organisation has halved staff numbers and sought an emergency bailout from local councils in recent months.

He said: “We are half the team we were in January. It has been tough but we have battled on. I don’t think 2021 is going to be any easier - it is going to be harder because we now have to deliver on our promises.”

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