Leeds & West Yorkshire

Welcome to Yorkshire 'had culture of toxicity'

Lord Scriven Image copyright PARLIAMENTLIVE.TV
Image caption Paul Scriven said Welcome to Yorkshire had a "culture of toxicity"

Two ex-leaders of a tourism body held games over who could get the priciest wine on expenses, parliament heard.

Paul Scriven told the House of Lords Welcome to Yorkshire (WtY) had a "culture of toxicity" and misused public funds .

An independent inquiry found expenses at WtY had been made without receipts.

Responding to the wine claims, the tourism body's former chair Ron McMillan said: "On no occasion that I recall has that been the case."

Speaking during a debate about extending the Freedom of Information Act, former Sheffield City Council leader Lord Scriven said he had attempted to investigate "major excesses" and "recent scandals" at WtY.

The debate was told WtY was made a private company in 2009 by Sir Gary Verity and had received over £10m in public money in the last decade.

"Excesses include luxury spending on helicopters, hotels at £600 a night [and] lavish meals during which the chief executive Gary Verity and the former chair Ron McMillan were playing games about who could get the most expensive wine on expenses," Lord Scriven said.

He also mentioned "shooting expeditions, seen as networking, at £2,500 a day" and "private chauffeur-driven cars to take people a few miles".

Council fees paid to Welcome to Yorkshire

East Riding of Yorkshire Council: £596,000

North Yorkshire County Council: £438,000

Leeds City Council: £800,000

Sheffield City Council: £250,000

Barnsley Council: £193,000

Source: Paul Scriven

WtY said it had always been a private company and was "simply rebranded" in 2009.

Keith Stewart, the organisation's interim chair, said: "Welcome to Yorkshire has achieved great things over the last 10 years, raising the profile of this county to new global heights through major international events, helping to increase the visitor economy to £9bn a year, and in doing so helping to create and sustain jobs.

"We will put right what has gone wrong and we will once again become an organisation that everyone can be proud of."

Mr McMillan denied WtY had paid for any shooting trips, stating he and Sir Gary had been guests on them on a small number of occasions.

The company set up independent investigations into expenses and governance after Sir Gary resigned in March.

Problems in the culture at the organisation were "bigger than one person", one investigation found.

Looking at expenses claims worth £900,000, investigators in a second inquiry said £26,000 of the total was deemed to be of a personal nature.

The BBC has approached representatives for Sir Gary for comment.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir Gary is credited with creating the UK's biggest cycling race, the Tour de Yorkshire

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