Wakefield Council undecided over whether to commit more cash to Welcome To Yorkshire after bailout plea from former leader Peter Box

Wakefield Council is yet to decide whether or not it will help plug a gap in the finances of Welcome to Yorkshire (WTY).

Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 4:42 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 4:59 pm
West Yorkshire councils have been asked to pay WTY a collective 550,000 to help them through the current crisis.

The troubled tourism agency, now chaired by the council's former leader, Peter Box, asked local authorities to fork out £1.4m to keep it going last month.

The plea, which came directly from Mr Box himself, followed WTY having to cancel membership fees for business during the lockdown.

The five councils in West Yorkshire have been asked to contribute £550,000 between them, but Wakefield said it would consider "what value" WTY could offer the district before committing any cash.

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Peter Box led Wakefield Council from 1998 to 2019. He stepped down last November to take up the chairmanship of Welcome to Yorkshire.

The agency was hailed for its part in securing the opening stages of the Tour de France for Yorkshire in 2014.

But more recently it's been mired in scandal, after chief executive Sir Gary Verity resigned in March last year amid allegations about his expenses and his treatment of staff.

Mr Box stepped down as Wakefield Council's leader after 21 years last November to take over his new position.

In a letter to all 20 local authorities across the region last month, he warned that WTY may face closure unless they all stump up.

Asked if Wakefield Council would pay its share of the contribution, chief executive Merran McRae said the local authority already has an "energetic" board which promotes Wakefield's visitor economy.

She added: "We are interested in what value Welcome to Yorkshire could add to this and will carefully consider its business plan and the current deliberations of its Board in coming to a decision on this."

Leeds City Council said on Wednesday that they too were yet to make a decision on funding WTY.

The authority's deputy leader, James Lewis, told a meeting that WTY's "approach going forward will be much more down to earth and humble than it has been in the past".

Local Democracy Reporting Service