Welcome to Yorkshire bosses to publish expenses in bid to quash 'lavish lifestyle' claims

Welcome to Yorkshire will publish expense spending by its senior management team and board members in an attempt to in a bid to end perceptions that “lavish lifestyles” are still being pursued at the embattled tourism agency, its chairman has said.

Welcome to Yorkshire chairman Peter Box made the announcement at a board meeting.

Peter Box made the announcement at a WtY board meeting on Thursday night and said the details would be published on the organisation’s website on a quarterly basis.

It came after Wakefield Council refused on Tuesday to contribute £78,000 of extra funding the agency had requested from it as part of a £1.4m bailout plea to local council. The organisation has been hit hard by the impact of the coronavirus crisis and had already been struggling to recover from the fallout from an expenses spending scandal that occurred under former chief executive Sir Gary Verity, who resigned citing health reasons in March 2019.

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Ahead of the decision being made, Wakefield Council cabinet member Matthew Morley said: “Welcome to Yorkshire have led a very lavish lifestyle, more than they could (afford) really. When you see people going round in helicopters and motorcars, it’s the sort of stuff that would make the President of America jealous.”

That accusation was immediately refuted by Welcome to Yorkshire, who released a statement saying that “may have been the case in the past but has been completely untrue for more than 18 months now”.

Mr Box, who was Wakefield Council leader for 21 years before stepping down to become Welcome to Yorkshire chairman last year, told Thursday’s board meeting that the “lavish lifestyle” accusation reflected how the organisation may have behaved in the past, not how it is run today.

But he said more needed to be done to make that clear to local authorities and the public.

“There is still a perception that things haven’t changed even though they have,” he said. “To try and make sure there is even more transparency, it is my intention on a quarterly basis to publish the expenses of the senior management team and every board member. We need to make sure we take every opportunity to try and be as open and accountable as we can.

“We hope by making sure all expenses are published we can be even more open and transparent.”

The organisation’s board meetings are currently taking place over video calls but Mr Box said that he hoped when Covid permits, Welcome to Yorkshire would be able to host future meetings in different parts of the county as he promised when he became chairman.

New show 'making Dales holidays a hit'

An ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ effect has resulted in a massive rise in people considering holidays in the Yorkshire Dales, it has been revealed.

James Mason, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, told the board meeting that the tourism agency’s website had seen a 90 per cent increase in people visiting pages relating to the Dales since a new series of the programme started on Channel 5 a fortnight ago.

He said there has been a 187 per cent increase in hits on its page for Grassington, where much of the new series was filmed. The show has also been attracting record viewing figures for Channel 5.

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Thank you

James Mitchinson