WELCOME to Yorkshire says improvements are being made following the conclusion of two independent investigations into the organisation's culture and expenses.

The group, which promotes tourism in Yorkshire, was hit by scandal earlier this year after questions were raised over the behaviour and expense claims of former CEO Sir Gary Verity.

Mr Verity resigned on health grounds in March and the then chair of the organisation, Ron McMillan, resigned the following month.

Two investigations were commissioned; one by accountancy firm BDO to examine expenses and the second by law firm Clarion who looked at the culture, governance and management of the organisation.

The BDO report found that of the £900,000 of expenses reviewed, around £26,000 were considered to be personal claims.

However, they were unable to conclude whether the majority of claims were 'reasonable and proportionate' due to a lack of specific guidelines or polices to govern entertainment expenses.

The Northern Echo:

Welcome to Yorkshire is credited with boosting the county's tourism income thanks to events such as the Tour de Yorkshire

BDO makes multiple recommendations to ensure expenses are more closely scrutinised at Welcome to Yorkshire, which is partly funded by public money via local councils.

The Clarion report involved 55 participants, including former members of staff, and around 83 per cent discussed cultural problems.

It found that there was a disconnect between the board and junior staff members and that the culture at WtY is a “problem that is bigger than one person”.

The report states: "By his own admission, it appears that Sir Gary Verity fell short of the highest performance and leadership standards that he states that he tried to set, and which we find would be reasonably expected of a CEO.

"Unfortunately, many participants stated that they felt unable to raise concerns at the relevant time, although some were concerned about the behaviour of Sir Gary Verity.

"We found that the culture of WtY was not open or focused on employee wellbeing, development or engagement."

However, praise was given for the organisation's contribution to tourism in Yorkshire, stating: "It is undeniable that several highly successful and high-profile events were delivered by the WtY team during Sir Gary Verity’s tenure, including the Grand Départ of the Tour de France and the annual legacy event of Tour de Yorkshire."

The Northern Echo:

Sir Gary Verity was the figurehead of Welcome to Yorkshire

In analysing the office environment, Clarion noted that the listed building status of the Leeds office led to staff having 'an unwanted feeling of always being watched' and that evidence suggested that more sensitive work had been carried out in toilet cubicles.

Keith Stewart, interim Chairman, said Welcome to Yorkshire, accepted and welcomed the findings of the investigations.

He added: “Clearly both reports have identified a number of areas which require improvement and instances where the leadership of the organisation has fallen short of the high standards not only we, but our brilliant team, members, funding partners and stakeholders expect.

"We have taken immediate steps to remedy this."

In the statement below, Keith Stewart, interim Chairman of Welcome to Yorkshire, responds to the points raised in the reports:

“One of the critical findings from both reports was that whilst Welcome to Yorkshire had processes in place around expenses and HR, unfortunately these weren’t always followed properly or implemented in the most appropriate way and there was a lack of oversight at the most senior level.

"We have undertaken a number of improvements in these areas and have committed to continue to do so.

“In addition, the report into culture, governance procedures and management of the organisation found that behavioural concerns were not always addressed, and that our culture was not always open or focused on employee wellbeing, development or engagement. We have introduced a number of new measures, including employing a head of HR, to improve this.

“The report into expenses identified some which it felt were for personal rather than for business uses. These have all been repaid. We have prioritised a recommendation for changes to our Board, including a full audit and refresh of its membership by April 2020.

“I would like to thank all those past and present employees and third parties who came forward to share confidentially their experiences and views of the organisation and leadership team.

“We know it has been an incredibly difficult period for everyone involved, particularly our amazing team, who continue to deliver the vital work that Welcome to Yorkshire does on a daily basis. One of the key commitments we have made is to provide counselling for any team members who require this level of support. If any former staff who took part in the investigations feel they require further support this can be arranged by contacting us.

“We appreciate the time and consideration those interviewed have taken to contribute to rebuilding Welcome to Yorkshire and how highly the organisation is valued for everything it achieves for this county.

“We value their honesty into our failings. We also appreciate the desire on the part of all our stakeholders for the organisation to thrive long into the future.”


Both reports make a range of practical proposals and recommendations based on a number of identified improvement areas.

A number of these have already been implemented, others are in the process of being implemented, and others will be considered carefully by the Board.

Keith added: “The Board considers that the practical approach taken, and recommendations made, will assist in the better governance and operation of Welcome to Yorkshire in the years to come.

“As previously stated, we are fully committed to making changes that help rebuild trust in the organisation, to support our team and continue to deliver world-class events in the region.

“We would like to assure all our staff, former staff and partners that the measures we have already put in place, and that will continue to be introduced, will ensure that the same things cannot happen again.

“We are committed to ensuring that a positive culture of leadership and support is fostered and that Welcome to Yorkshire operates as an organisation that everyone can be rightfully proud of.”