Leeds & West Yorkshire

Welcome to Yorkshire: Peer calls for board to resign

Sir Gary Verity Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir Gary Verity resigned from Welcome to Yorkshire after a decade as chief executive

A tourism body's board should resign after "damning and breathtaking" reports were published into the running of the company, a peer said.

The two Welcome to Yorkshire (WtY) reports say expenses claims were made without receipts and staff felt unable to speak out about bad behaviour.

Lord Paul Scriven said "fundamental change" was needed to regain its reputation.

A WtY spokesman said: "Where we have let people down, we are truly sorry."

The company, which receives over £1m in public funding a year, set up the independent investigations after its former boss Sir Gary Verity resigned in March.

One investigation, carried out by accountancy firm BDO, considered expenses claims made by all WtY staff over a three-year period.

The other, completed by Clarion Solicitors, investigated culture, governance procedures and management.

Key findings

  • In expenses claims worth £900,000 investigators said £26,000 of these claims were deemed to be of a personal nature
  • WtY "did not have specific guidelines or polices to govern entertainment expenses"
  • Many participants raised concerns about the behaviour of Sir Gary Verity
  • Many participants stated that they felt unable to raise concerns at the relevant time
  • The culture at WtY is a "problem that is bigger than one person"

Lord Scriven said: "These reports are damning and also breathtaking, it shows that Welcome to Yorkshire had no governance at the top, no financial control.

"It's a catastrophe for the many thousands of local businesses that work in tourism and taxpayers who paid money, it shows that fundamental and structural change now needs to take place if it's going to regain its reputation."

Following a series of recommendations, WtY said board expenses over £250 would be published online and HR policies were being reviewed and improved.

Mr Scriven added: "What is clear is that this was - and maybe still is at the top - a dysfunctional body, therefore I think serious change needs to take place including the board needs to resign."

Image caption Annie Drew worked as a PA to Sir Gary Verity at Welcome to Yorkshire in 2012

Keith Stuart, WtY interim chair, said: "I would like to take this opportunity to apologise on behalf of the organisation to those who have been affected by actions and mistakes made.

"Where we have let people down, we are truly sorry."

Speaking in June, Annie Drew, who worked as a PA to Sir Gary at WtY for six months in 2012, said her former boss "would shout and scream and swear and throw things sometimes at people" and felt uncomfortable with some expense claims.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Sir Gary said: "As concerns expenses, all expenses went through the proper processes and were signed off by both the chairman and the audit committee.

"Sir Gary is and has always been a passionate Yorkshireman, driven to see his county prosper, which it most certainly did under his leadership.

"He accepts his passion to succeed may on occasion not have been in-step with present day cultural norms, albeit many of the claims made by some of the individuals were wildly wide of the mark."

Image copyright Local Democracy Reporting Service
Image caption Lord Paul Scriven said WtY needed to become 'open and transparent'

Mr Stuart added: "Clearly both reports have identified a number of areas which require improvement and instances where the leadership of the organisation has fallen short.

"We have taken immediate steps to remedy this."

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