EMERGENCY funding of £25,000 for Welcome to Yorkshire is later today (August 5) likely to be agreed by Craven District Council.

Last week, the council's decision making Policy Committee unanimously agreed to support the tourism organisation after hearing from its 'passionate' chief executive James Mason.

It will now have to be approved at this evening's full council.

Some members at last week's meeting, who at the outset had raised concerns about the organisation, its 'tarnished history' and just how the money would benefit Craven, declared themselves convinced by Mr Mason's passion for change and the county.

Others raised concerns about 'over tourism' in some places, such as the Yorkshire Three Peaks, Ribblesdale and Malhamdale, and said how attracting visitors was a 'fine balancing act'.

Members heard how while visitors were starting to return to Craven, and some businesses, such as campsites, were doing very well, others were not coping with the coronavirus regulations and tourism was still far from its usual levels.

Welcome to Yorkshire is asking for £1.4 million of public money from local authorities across West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Hull and East Riding.

The hoped for contribution from North Yorkshire as a whole is £386,400.

A report to the committee said how without the funding, the organisation would not continue to operate and there would be a 'managed close-down'.

It continued that the close-down could cost around £3m and would leave no structure in place for managing the region's tourism at a critical time.

Mr Mason, who joined the organisation in January, following the resignation last year of its former chief executive, Gary Verity, told the remotely held meeting that he understood that £25,000 was a lot of money but that it was not a huge amount to market the whole of Yorkshire.

He told councillors he well understood that the Welcome to Yorkshire brand had become tarnished, but that he was determined to rebuild the trust of the local authorities, and offered to tailor the requirements of Craven.

Welcome to Yorkshire was a global platform, with a million followers on social media, he said.

The organisation planned to lead the county's recovery post Covid-19 with it 'reopen, recover, rebuild campaign', he said.

Asked what would happen to Craven's £25,000 if the remaining amount of the asked for £1.4 million was not forthcoming, he said it was 'all or nothing'.

There was no chance of Welcome to Yorkshire going bust, but he said: "If we don't get the full £1.4 million, there is probably no point in continuing.

"That is the reality of the situation, but if we do get it, it will provide a service for the whole county well into the summer of next year.

"I have no concerns that we will go bust in the next 12 months, however, we want all of the money, or nothing."

Mr Mason, who said when he took over the organisation he had reduced the number of staff from 55 to 20 and had reduced its operating costs by £1 million; said the emergency funding would enable him to recruit staff, including the replacement of people who had left, and to invest in infrastructure.

“If Welcome to Yorkshire doesn’t continue, who will adequately fight for the businesses that need support right now, but also post-Covid, to really bang the drum and celebrate our county to a national audience, especially with domestic tourism and staycations so popular, but also put Yorkshire back on the international map once international restrictions are changed.

“My plan is to transform the visitor economy in terms of asking people not just to visit Yorkshire but also to come and live here, to work here, to study here, to build families, to build a legacy for themselves.”

The meeting heard how some districts had 'half-heartedly' given money, and some none at all.

Cllr Patrick Mulligan (Con, Aire Valley with Lothersdale) said he did not think it was a large amount of money at all and he was ''disappointed' that some authorities had decided against supporting the organisation.

"I don't think this is a gamble at all. We should look upon it as a 'prove it' deal and see what it does next year and what innovations are put in place.

"I hope we will continue to support it; it is a vital organisation and what would replace it? Especially following the lockdown, we have got to get our tourism industry back on its feet. I am 100 per cent behind this."

Cllr Mark Wheeler (Ind, Glusburn) said everyone was aware of the 'chequered past' of the Welcome to Yorkshire brand prior to Mr Mason taking over.

And, he asked if all the entire £1.4 million was not forthcoming, was the organisation going to 'wither on the vine'.

He also wondered whether Craven would be better putting its money to support a Dales tourism project.

But after listening to Mr Mason, he said he felt comforted by the presentation and felt the council would get more than the £25,000 it put in.

Cllr Simon Myers (Con, Gargrave) said the problem with Welcome to Yorkshire had been one of a lack of governance.

"We would be better served by clubbing together and getting more for our bucks. We have no real alternatives at the moment, we are coming out of a pandemic and we need to get people to come to Craven and Yorkshire.It is a good deal of money, but it is money well spent, and it is the only deal on the table."

Council leader, Cllr Richard Foster (Con, Grassington), said from anecdotal reports, he understood businesses were faring better, but were slow to pick up.

"Restrictions on them are making it very difficult, they are nowhere near back to normal. Campsites are very busy for cheap holidays, but others are not doing well, " he said.

Cllr Robert Heseltine (Ind, Skipton South) described the asked for £25,000 as a 'spit in the ocean' and said Welcome to Yorkshire was like a terminally ill animal that ought to be put down.

"We are drinking in the last chance saloon here. But, against my electorate and my better sense, I will support this last contribution , but I am not convinced," he said.

Cllr Richard Welch (Con, Penyghent), said the promotion of tourism was a 'fine balancing act' and how local residents had had their lives 'rearranged' due to visitors.

A Code of Conduct had been brought in to cope with walkers doing the Yorkshire Three Peaks, and there could be 720 motorbikes in Ribblesdale doing the Dales TT Ride, he said.

"Shops do need the tourism, but it is a fine balancing act. There is more to Yorkshire than Ribblesdale and Malham, perhaps it could be spread out more evenly."

Cllr Welch said he would not however be the 'fly in the ointment' and not support giving the money.

After the meeting, Cllr Foster added: “Welcome to Yorkshire had to deal with some challenging issues in 2019 which have had a detrimental impact on the organisation both reputationally and financially.

“However it has now had to reinvent itself and is now a different organisation; more responsive and more inclusive.

“We know that Covid-19 is having a catastrophic impact on the tourism industry, and I believe Welcome to Yorkshire is needed more than ever to lead a nationwide campaign to welcome tourists back to the area.

“Understandably there will be some reticence on continuing to fund Welcome to Yorkshire, but it has gone through a major transformation, and with so many tourism businesses across Craven in extreme difficulties now is not the time to pull the plug with all the costs that would entail and with nothing in place to fill the void."

He added: “We will need strong reassurances that all of the actions in the improvement plan are delivered and we have a strong input into the business plan.”

Welcome to Yorkshire have put in place a Recovery Plan, ‘Re-Open, Recover and Rebuild’ with the main aim of giving visitors and service providers trust and confidence that Yorkshire is Covid secure and open for business.

The meeting heard that the impact of Covid-19 has meant that the Business Rates Pool is unable to meet its funding commitment and the loss of this funding, together with that of private sector income, has left Welcome to Yorkshire in the position of needing to request the one-year emergency funding solution of £1.4m from local authorities across the region.