William Eichler 15 October 2019

Council leader steps down to chair controversial tourism firm

The leader of Wakefield Council, Cllr Peter Box, has announced that he is standing down following his appointment as chairman of an embattled tourism agency.

Cllr Box, who has been at the helm of the Yorkshire council for 21 years, had intended to step down in May 2020 before the local elections.

However, he said that the opportunity to chair Welcome to Yorkshire had prompted him to move the date forward to the end of November so that the tourism firm could get ‘the attention it needs’.

In July, an inquiry into expenses claims and bullying allegations found that Welcome to Yorkshire, which receives more than £1m in public funding each year, had little oversight on its expenditure.

Members of the North and West Yorkshire Business Rates Pool have, however, agreed to pay the company another £1m this financial year because closing it down ‘could cost more than £3m’.

The money will be payed in instalments with each one being dependent on reforms aimed at strengthening its accountability, transparency and governance of public resources.

Cllr Box commented: ‘It has been a great privilege to serve the residents of this district as leader, particularly those in my ward of Altofts and Whitwood, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the last 21 years.

‘I shall miss taking on the future challenges faced by the council, but most of all I shall miss working with residents and communities and seeing the positive difference we can make to people's lives.’

Wakefield Council's chief executive Merran McRae said: ‘It has been a privilege to work with Cllr Box over the last two years. His strong commitment to this district, all our residents and this council has been very clear to see.

‘Under his leadership there has been significant regeneration and a huge focus on supporting economic growth, resulting in the district having one of the ten fastest-growing local economies in the UK today.’

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