Troubled Welcome to Yorkshire misses deadline to file annual accounts

Troubled tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire has missed a deadline for the publication of its annual accounts as auditors continue to assess whether the organisation is still viable, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Welcome to Yorkshire's finances are under the spotlight. Picture: James Hardisty

The private company, which is part-funded through millions from local councils but has struggled to recover from the fallout from ex-chief executive Sir Gary Verity’s resignation last March in the midst of bullying and expenses allegations, had been due to publish its accounts for the 2018/19 financial year by December 31.

The report is due to contain an assessment from auditors on whether the organisation is a “going concern” and financially sustainable for the foreseeable future.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But the accounts are yet to be published, with Welcome to Yorkshire saying today they will be completed “as soon as possible”.

The organisation has endured a difficult year since the resignation of ex-chief executive Sir Gary Verity.

In August last year, a report by a Local Government Association advisor and an independent advisor to regional council chief executives warned at that stage “it would seem unlikely that the auditor could easily conclude that Welcome to Yorkshire is a going concern” when the 2018/19 accounts were filed by the deadline of December 31.

Welcome to Yorkshire currently has until November this year to repay the loan in full, which is secured against a £1m building the tourism agency owns in York.

The organisation has appointed former Bradford City Football Club chief operating officer James Mason as its new chief executive, joining former Wakefield Council leader Peter Box who has recently become its chairman after interim chairman Keith Stewart was ousted by council bosses.

Mr Box said in October following his appointment that Welcome to Yorkshire had been operating with a “spend now, worry about it later culture” which he was determined to change. The company subsequently announced it would not be attending the Chelsea Flower Show in 2020 after its 2019 garden had gone £170,000 over budget.

New board members are also being appointed, with their first meeting due later this month.

A spokesperson for Welcome to Yorkshire said today: “The publishing of the accounts, year ending March 31 2019, was delayed due to the audit process being put on hold last year whilst independent investigations were carried out into the organisation’s expenses, governance, culture and management.

“Given the Welcome to Yorkshire Board structure has recently been refreshed, it is also important that new board members are given the appropriate time to fulfil their corporate governance responsibilities when approving these accounts. Welcome to Yorkshire is currently working with the auditors to complete the process as soon as possible.”

When asked whether the company is able to say at this stage whether the auditors have assessed if Welcome to Yorkshire is still a going concern, the spokesperson said: “The auditors are still carrying out their detailed work.”