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Debate Reopens Over Tour de Yorkshire Funding

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021 7:12am

By Stuart Minting, Local Democracy Reporter

Councils across the region are set to debate handing Welcome to Yorkshire hundreds of thousands of pounds more to stage next year’s Tour de Yorkshire if the tourism body is unable to secure sufficient sponsorship.

The request for funding to numerous local authorities hosting the event follows an announcement that following a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic the annual May Day weekend international cycling race would resume next year.

The race is being promoted as an opportunity to aid economic recovery across the region, and in particular in host towns and cities of Leyburn, Barnsley, Beverly, Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds, Redcar and Skipton.

Its backers say the event will be the first and largest non-ticketed mass participation event of its kind in the UK since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Welcome to Yorkshire is also planning a county-wide ‘Festival of Yorkshire’ to take place for a week at the same time as the race, which would be the centrepiece of a celebration of Yorkshire’s food and drink, arts and culture, heritage and music.

However, an officers’ report to a Richmondshire council meeting next Tuesday states in addition to the usual estimated costs of the hosting a stage of the event, “there may be a requirement to underwrite a further amount by the end of June to allow Welcome to Yorkshire to commit to the race”.

The report states there would be a potential extra £100,000 cost to Richmondshire council alone, on top of the £160,000 it has already agreed to pay, if Welcome to Yorkshire is unable to secure sufficient sponsorship.

The report suggests some of the extra funds could be drawn from the council’s dwindling reserves.

Richmondshire council’s corporate board spokesman Councillor Stuart Parsons said the authority would debate whether offering extra funds on a weather-dependent event would be value for money,

He said:

“Personally speaking, if we are able to raise the money that Welcome to Yorkshire expects we should be investing that money in expanding events that directly function in Richmondshire, like the Swaledale Festival and Richmond Walking and Book Festival as they would bring in a much longer term gain for the local economy.

“When we first discussed the Tour de France Richmondshire was told a £30,000 contribution would get it.  Then it went up to £50,000, then £100,000 and the final bill for the district was about £250,000. It was not the great economic boost that we were promised and successive Tour de Yorkshires have not had that impact.”

Cllr Parsons also questioned Welcome to Yorkshire’s economic benefit calculations, saying while the tourism body counted every night’s stay as a result of the race Richmond’s guesthouses had always been full over the May Day bank holiday.

He said:

“Welcome to Yorkshire have had huge amounts of public money and if we’d spent that much money on our local businesses the area would be that much more buoyant.”

However, Welcome to Yorkshire board member and North Yorkshire County Council leader Councillor Carl Les rejected the criticisms saying it was a duty of councils to promote their areas to a wider audience.

He added:

“I am satisfied with the probity and governance arrangements around Welcome to Yorkshire. There’s a new chairman and a new chief executive in place, new board members and audit and other controls in place following reports by Clarion Solicitors and Accountants BDO.

“While staycation is going to of benefit this year, in future years we are going to have to be more competitive with other destinations, so we need to set out our stall the best we can, and there isn’t a better way of promoting the geography of an area than following a cycle race as it goes on television for hours. If you had to buy that sort of advertising it would cost millions.”

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