Scarborough Borough Council to launch investigation into Welcome to Yorkshire

Scarborough Council operates in partnership with Welcome to Yorkshire on tourism activities and promotion across the borough.
Scarborough Council operates in partnership with Welcome to Yorkshire on tourism activities and promotion across the borough.

Scarborough Council is to carry out an investigation into its relationship with embattled tourism organisation Welcome to Yorkshire.

The body, which hit the headlines following the resignation of its chief executive Sir Gary Verity following concerns over his behaviour and expense claims, works closely with the borough council to promote tourism in the borough.

Following the news of the allegations surrounding Sir Gary, some councils in Yorkshire, including Sheffield and Hull, have withdrawn their funding to the organisation.

Since then, the body’s chairman, Ron McMillan, has also left his post and two independent investigations are underway and are due to release their findings in June.

While not withdrawing its financial support to the organisation, Scarborough Council’s audit committee confirmed last week that an in-depth investigation into the council’s relationship with Welcome to Yorkshire would be undertaken to see if the council was getting value for money from its partnership with the Tour de Yorkshire organiser.

Committee member and Labour leader Cllr Steve Siddons told last Thursday’s meeting that it was crucial the investigation was carried out quickly.

He said: “The timescale is crucial as not everyone thinks that Welcome to Yorkshire will exist in a few months time.”

Committee chairman Cllr Tom Fox (Con) agreed with the need for an investigation, adding: “[The investigation] is about our relationship, it is about value for money and it is about whether or not we are being best served by the relationship.”

The council’s legal director, Lisa Dixon, said an initial piece of work had been carried out when the allegations surfaced but more work was needed.

She added that the £150,000 the council pays to host the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race, which has visited the borough for the past five years, goes to the French co-organiser Amaury Sports Organisation and not to Welcome to Yorkshire.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Siddons said he was pleased that the council would be looking into whether the deal with Welcome to Yorkshire was a good one for the authority.

He said: “Over the last three years the council has spent over half a million pounds plus an unknown cost in staff support on the Tour de Yorkshire event.

“Given the current investigations around the financial activities of Welcome to Yorkshire, the event organiser, now is the time to have a full independent audit of the cost benefits of the money spent by Scarborough Council.

“We are delighted at the coverage this event gives to the Yorkshire Coast but have a duty to ensure the money spent represents value for money for the hard-working council taxpayers of this borough.”

Scarborough Council operates in partnership with Welcome to Yorkshire on tourism activities and promotion across the borough.

Welcome to Yorkshire pays the council, 2017 figures show around £60,000, which covers the cost of staffing and support.

Scarborough Council makes an annual payment to Welcome to Yorkshire as a membership fee, approximately £20,000, and also permits its tourism manager to act as a Welcome to Yorkshire area director.

The fifth running of the Tour de Yorkshire is set to visit the Scarborough borough this Saturday.