THE leader of a district council has defended the authority's decision not to renew a subscription to Welcome to Yorkshire after the joining fee was increased by almost £9,000.

Coun John Blackie, leader of Richmondshire District Council, also said he was open to possibility of the council paying half the increased subscription if other large tourism operators could stump up the rest.

At a full council meeting last month, Richmondshire District councillors voted in favour of setting up a £10,000 tourism fund – but to keep it at a local level rather than pay Welcome to Yorkshire for marketing and promotional services.

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However some local businesses voiced their concerns that Richmondshire District Council was “ill-informed and short-sighted” to cancel the subscription.

Coun Blackie said while he understands the support for Welcome to Yorkshire, the move was made after considerable debate.

He said: “The council’s strategy board, at its meeting on November 27, considered the request made by Welcome to Yorkshire to increase its subscription levels from local authorities in North Yorkshire to a minimum of £10,000 per annum - irrespective of the size of their revenue budgets.

“In Richmondshire’s case - the smallest local authority in North Yorkshire - the current subscription is £1,237.

“WTY made this request because of a huge reduction in its funding from Central Government, but Richmondshire has also had its funding massively cut - by 32 per cent over the last two years.”

Coun Blackie added that he believed it was important the council focused on maximising its own tourism efforts.

He said: “The council felt the money would be better spent on local Richmondshire projects rather than on paying the steeply increased membership fee to Welcome to Yorkshire.”

He said many micro-tourist businesses thought a more local focus for the £10,000 investment would pay dividends - as 2012 proved to be a disappointing year for business despite WTY efforts.

“Large tourism operators who consider that Richmondshire District Council should be a member of WTY might get together and come up with £5,000 for 2013-2014 - which I think the council might be able and prepared to match,” he said.

“If this approach came off then we would achieve £10,000 for investment in local tourist initiatives, and membership of Welcome to Yorkshire as a result of a private and public sector partnership.”