Council gives Welcome to Yorkshire another extension to repay £500,000 loan

Tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire has been given an extra six months to repay a £500,000 taxpayer-funded loan.

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 3:55 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 5:14 pm
Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive James Mason.
Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive James Mason.

North Yorkshire County Council first agreed to lend the cash in September 2019 after financial difficulties meant the troubled tourism agency would have run out of money and been unable to pay staff.

The loan, which was secured against a Welcome to Yorkshire-owned property in York valued at £1m, was originally due to be repaid by November last year before a one-year extension was agreed - and this has now been extended for a further six months until April 2022.

Speaking at an executive meeting today, councillor Gareth Dadd, deputy leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said the loan was being extended for a "technical reason" so the repayment period would span the whole of the financial year.

He said: "It’s not offering any more funding to Welcome to Yorkshire in any shape or form. It’s merely a technical extension to the loan repayment period in order for them to cover their accounting year.

"We do okay out of this loan to Welcome to Yorkshire and that wants emphasising. And I would suggest, given the value of the property, it’s absolutely secure.”

The tourism body, which is funded by businesses and councils, was responsible for attracting the Tour de France to Yorkshire in 2014 and the creation of the annual Tour de Yorkshire cycle race.

It has, however, been troubled with culture, governance and management problems, and last year warned it faced a £1.4million funding shortfall due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the time, the body's chief executive James Mason said that "now more than ever" it needed to work together with councils which agreed to bail-out the cash shortfall.

More recently, new documents published last month revealed Welcome to Yorkshire spent over £430,000 removing and investigating its former chief executive, Sir Gary Verity, who departed in March 2019 following concerns over his expenses claims and the way in which staff were treated.

Two sets of accounts were published, covering a combined period of two years. The first set shows that in the 18 months between March 2018 and September 2019, the company reported a deficit of £71,857.

In the six months to the end of March 2020, a further £127,140 deficit was reported - a result attributed in part to costs connected with making redundancies and recruiting the new chief executive Mr Mason.

Mr Mason welcomed the loan extension from North Yorkshire County Council, saying: “Welcome to Yorkshire are grateful to our colleagues at NYCC for working with us on this loan extension as we continue to move the organisation towards a firmer footing."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter