Welcome to Yorkshire cut half of its staff since January, meeting hears

Tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire has cut more than half of its staff since the beginning of 2020, it has been revealed.

Monday, 16th November 2020, 4:32 pm
Updated Monday, 16th November 2020, 4:36 pm

WtY has faced financial problems ever since a highly-publicised investigation into the behaviour of its former chief executive Sir Gary Verity, and has recently received extra money from local authorities to continue to pay its bills.

Current Chief executive of WtY James Mason was appointed in January this year, and was tasked with steadying the ship and rebuilding trust with local organisations.

Speaking to Leeds City Council’s Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Board, Mr Mason said the organisation he had inherited was like a “bruised animal”, but was slowly turning around.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Welcome to Yorkshire CEO James Mason.

He said: “My brief in January was clear – the organisation had gone through turbulent issues in the past 18 months – notwithstanding Gary Verity leaving the organisation, but the subsequent drift since that time.

“Financial affairs were played out in public. It was a bruised animal I picked up in January, but the brief was to rebuild bridges, regain trust and revitalise the brand.

“Back in January we had about 45 staff and a wage bill of about £1.82m, so the first thing was to get a grip on the finances of Welcome to Yorkshire.

“We do have some high fixed costs – one initially was wages, so we have reduced 45 staff to about 22.

“Any rationalisation takes time, and it’s a difficult restructure, but the output in a digital world has been as high, if not higher, than it’s ever been.”

WtY’s chairman Peter Box warned councils during the summer that it would have to close without local authorities collectively coming up with a £1.4m emergency payout.

But Wakefield Council’s cabinet members decided at a meeting in September that its £77,000 share of the money would be better spent locally.

One councillor asked for the reasons around Wakefield’s recent rejection of proposals to send their share of the money.

Mr Mason said: “The decision of Wakefield, and of every local authority in the county, was based on needs and must, when public health is perhaps higher on the agenda than tourism.

“In terms of why they chose not to fund Welcome to Yorkshire, I can’t answer that – that is for the decision-makers in Wakefield in particular.”