07 Oct 2019

North and West Yorkshire Business Rates Pool meeting October 7: Welcome to Yorkshire

Business rates

Welcome to Yorkshire’s progress on strengthening its governance and addressing issues highlighted by two recent investigations into the actions of its former chief executive has been reviewed by the North and West Yorkshire Business Rates Pool.

Members of the pool today (Oct 7) agreed a series of firm conditions which the tourism organisation’s board must accept before part release of the funds previously agreed for the financial year 2019/20, subject to further progress reviews.

The pool also agreed to publish in full confidential reports supporting the review, apart from commercially sensitive sections. The conditions also require:

  • Immediate recruitment of a new WTY board*, with the interim chair arrangements ceasing from today;
  • A public sector chair to be appointed and the new board in place before the end of the financial year;
  • Recruitment of a new WTY chief executive to start immediately and publicly;
  • Until this process is complete Jacqui Gedman, chief executive of Kirklees Council, to provide WTY with strategic support and authority to draw down BRP funding as required;
  • A public sector-led four-month consultation about the future of regional tourism to be launched

The recommendations were approved at the pool’s meeting, when members also thanked Keith Stewart for his interim chairmanship of WTY, along with board members who supported him during this difficult period. They also recognised his ongoing commitment to Welcome to Yorkshire and his contribution to delivering the improvements to date.

They had heard that all options for WTY’s future had been considered, including a managed closedown, which could cost more than £3m – considerably more than the £1m already committed and this would leave no structure for managing the region’s tourism.

It was agreed that releasing the £1m in three tranches with each release subject to its own review would ensure it was invested wisely in line with improved governance. It would provide certainty and stability to Welcome to Yorkshire and enable the organisation to continue to deliver high profile events across Yorkshire that benefit the local economy and raise the profile of the region.

Members of the pool had previously laid out firm terms for the tourism organisation to take action in a number of areas in order for funding to continue to be made available to them. It said it expected “significant progress” in time for the review.

They were told how the recommendations of the reports are being implemented and received feedback on the financial uncertainty faced by WTY, which has led to progress not moving as quickly as anticipated in some areas of the organisation.

The committee will receive a progress report in December/January on a date to be arranged, with an expectation that there is significant progress on the key priorities and improvements.

Councillor Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council and chair of the North and West Yorkshire Business Rates Pool, said:

“The pool has been very firm from the start that it would only continue to support Welcome to Yorkshire if it was satisfied that significant progress had been made to strengthen its accountability, transparency and governance of public resources.

“We also required clear evidence that strong action was being taken to address the issues within the organisation resulting from the behaviour of their former chief executive, as highlighted in the investigation reports.

“They have evidenced sufficient progress in both areas at this stage and we recognise that financial uncertainty has been a barrier to those improvements happening at the pace required. Therefore we have agreed to release limited funding, subject to the board changes and other agreed conditions. This is subject to further progress reviews to enable WTY to implement the recommendations while continuing to drive the Yorkshire visitor economy.

“We are in full agreement that the region needs a successful strategic destination marketing organisation, but it must be one that upholds the same values and governance enshrined in the principles of spending public funds.”

*Notes to editors:  this does not include public sector board members, who retain their seats according to their terms of office.

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