Chairman at Welcome to Yorkshire resigns

The chairman of tourism organisation Welcome to Yorkshire has resigned, saying “it is clear that our Local Authority major sponsors are looking for a significantly revamped board to take the business forward.”

The resignation of Ron McMillan follows that of Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of the organisation in March 2019, after questions were raised over expenses claims. At the time, he maintained that his departure had to do with personal reasons and asked for “time and space to heal”. He had been tipped for the top spot at the Premier League before his departure.

Following his resignation, Welcome to Yorkshire announced that it would launch two separate investigations into Sir Gary Verity’s behaviour and expenses claims.

Professional services firms Clarion and BDO have now been appointed to handle these investigations.

Clarion has been mandated with looking into the governance procedures and culture at the business, including the potential impact of senior management’s approach. The firm will then make recommendations as to practices going forward.

BDO will undertake a review of expenses claims made by “current and recent” members of Welcome to Yorkshire’s senior team and board for the past six years, and potentially longer if it deems it necessary. Both investigations are due to be completed by June 2019. They will include interviews with current and former staff at Welcome to Yorkshire.

Welcome to Yorkshire said that chairman Ron McMillan had chosen to resign now that investigations have commenced, to be replaced in the interim by current board member Keith Stewart, until the outcome of the investigations have been released.

In a letter made public by Welcome to Yorkshire, Mr McMillan said: “Looking ahead, I hope Welcome to Yorkshire will continue to make an outstanding contribution to Yorkshire’s economic growth.

“I hope Welcome to Yorkshire will continue to be a highly commercial organisation which recognises that outputs in the form of economic growth are more important than inputs.

“In particular, I hope it will expand its range of activities on an international stage and that it will be allowed to invest in all of the things hat are important to its success; business development, building relationships, getting out and about and attending events, engaging sponsors and influencers (current and prospective) and pursuing new sources of funding to name a few.”

He finished by saying: “My final thought goes to my Board colleagues. As I believe they all know, I have consulted our major sponsors in relation to every significant decision taken and I have been helped greatly by their advice and guidance, and also by the guidance of certain members of the board. My thanks also go to all of them.”

Interim chair Keith Stewart, said: “We’d like to thank Ron for his time as chair and helping to oversee a hugely successful period in the growth of the Yorkshire tourism brand and the prosperity it has brought to the region, adding over £1bn in 2016-17 alone.”

He said he would ensure that going forward, “in the interests of greater transparency” make appropriate board meeting documents public.

In relation to he investigations, he said: “It is imperative for everyone involved, from our team to our stakeholders and the wider members, that we look to foster a positive culture of leadership and support so that we ensure that we can reflect internally what has been done so well externally.

“This year we have an incredibly ambitious programme of events and will once again focus the eyes of the world on Yorkshire. We want to be able to continue this work long in to the future as part of an organisation that everyone can be rightfully proud of.”