Sheffield suspends its membership of Welcome to Yorkshire

Sheffield Council is suspending its annual £50,000 membership to Welcome to Yorkshire until investigations are completed into expenses claims by its former chief executive.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 03 April, 2019, 21:11

Sir Gary Verity resigned on health grounds from Welcome to Yorkshire last week but since his departure concerns have been raised about his expenses.

The BBC was told Sir Gary repaid more than £40,000 to the tourism body, but his legal team said he “made errors of judgement, it was nothing more than that.”

John Burkhill at Sheffield Town Hall

Following a board meeting on Tuesday, Welcome to Yorkshire announced two independent investigations into Sir Gary’s expenses and behaviour since his appointment in 2008.

The board has also written to West Yorkshire Police to inform it of the external investigations.

Now Sheffield Council has paused its subscription until it is reassured that taxpayers’ money has not been “misappropriated”.

Council Leader Julie Dore agreed to an urgent motion which Coun Paul Scriven raised at full council.

He said: “In light of the issues that have emerged at Welcome to Yorkshire over the last 24 hours – of over £40,000 of expenses being falsely claimed, internal investigations being set up and West Yorkshire Police now looking into possible criminal offences.

“Will the council suspend its £50,000 membership fee until such time as West Yorkshire Police and the internal investigations have been completed to ensure that Sheffield council tax payers money is safe?”

Coun Dore agreed. She said: “These are still allegations, that £40,000 has been misappropriated, and there is a thorough investigation still going on.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“When we were alerted to this I had a discussion with our chief executive and we have written to Welcome to Yorkshire to ensure the council’s contribution has been used appropriately so we were awaiting the outcome of that letter to then decide what we wanted to do next.

“We have not paid our subscription so far this year so I am more than prepared to delay that until we have a satisfactory response that Sheffield council taxpayers money has not been misappropriated.”

Earlier this week, Coun Scriven – who is also a Liberal Democrat Peer – contacted the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire to see if criminal charges could be brought.

He said earlier: “Welcome to Yorkshire in the last five years has received £14.9 million pounds of taxpayers money.

“Sheffield Council has paid £50,000 per year over the last three years for membership subscription to Welcome to Yorkshire.

“Gary Verity was paid £243,000 a year. It is now clear that he claimed expenses that he was not entitled to. This ran into a five figure sum, again this was taxpayers money.”

Lawyers representing Sir Gary told the BBC: “Expenses were submitted in the ordinary course and signed off.

“However, on review it was agreed that some errors had been made and Sir Gary was content to agree to voluntarily reimburse Welcome to Yorkshire for monies owed.”

West Yorkshire Police says it is not clear if any criminal offences have been committed and it is seeking to meet representatives from Welcome to Yorkshire at the earliest opportunity to discuss the matter further.