Ex-tourism body heads accused of holding fine wine expenses competitions
Two former bosses of Welcome to Yorkshire – ex-chief executive Sir Gary Verity and chairman Ron McMillan – have been accused of “playing games” to see “who could get the most expensive wine on expenses”.
The accusations were made by Liberal Democrat politician and former Leader of Sheffield City Council Lord Scriven during a debate in the House of Lords on extending the Freedom of Information Act.
He denounced Verity and McMillan for misusing public funds and said that Welcome to Yorkshire “had a culture of toxicity”.
Scriven called for an extension of the Freedom of Information Act, claiming that “major excesses and scandals” at Welcome to Yorkshire committed since 2012 had not been revealed because the firm was a private company.
“Due to the lack of freedom of information, no one really knows what has been going on under the auspices of Welcome to Yorkshire,” he said.
Detailing the “major excesses”, Scriven said they included “luxury spending on helicopters, hotels at £600 a night [and] lavish meals during which the chief executive Gary Verity and the former chair Ron McMillan were playing games about who could get the most expensive wine on expenses.”
Scriven said that over the past four years, Welcome to Yorkshire had received a total of £2,277,000 from five local authorities, including £596,000 from East Riding of Yorkshire Council, £438,000 from North Yorkshire County Council, £800,000 from Leeds City Council, £250,000 from Sheffield City Council and £193,000 from Barnsley Council.
Responding to the fine wine competition claims, McMillan told the BBC: “On no occasion that I recall has that been the case.”
Responding to Scriven’s accusations, Keith Stewart, the organisation’s interim chair, told the news site: “Welcome to Yorkshire has achieved great things over the last 10 years, raising the profile of this county to new global heights through major international events, helping to increase the visitor economy to £9 billon a year, and in doing so helping to create and sustain jobs.
“We will put right what has gone wrong and we will once again become an organisation that everyone can be proud of.”