The future of the Tour de Yorkshire and Women’s Tour de Yorkshire are in serious doubt today after two councils said they would refuse to contribute towards a £1.4 million emergency cash injection that Welcome to Yorkshire (WTY) says it needs to avoid being forced to shut down its operations.
The Yorkshire Post reported yesterday that Peter Box, chair of the tourism and inward investment agency had written to councils across Yorkshire requesting the funding.
The bike, organised in partnership with ASO and British Cycling, are among the most high-profile events used by the agency to promote the region to potential visitors and business investors.
The newspaper said that councils in West Yorkshire councils had been asked to provide £550,000 in funding, and those in North Yorkshire is £450,000. Councils in South Yorkshire and East Yorkshire were asked to contribute £300,000 and £100,000, respectively.
But with local authorities already battling with a funding squeeze due to the COVID-19 pandemic, two councils have already said that they will not be providing the amounts requested, and it will be little surprise if others follow.
He wrote: “Without commitment from all local authorities to contribute to the emergency funding that totals £1.4m, WTY simply cannot continue to operate and the WTY Board will be faced with a decision of not if, but when, to discuss the options of closing the organisation.”
Today it emerged that Hambleton District Council, based in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, is refusing to provide the £53,000 requested from it.
It joins another North Yorkshire local authority, Malton-based Ryedale District Council, which said yesterday it would not be contributing the £33,000 it had been asked to contribute to the emergency fund.
Mark Robson, leader of Hambleton District Council, said: “I’m not prepared to throw more money at something at this time without seeing more evidence on where the money is going to go.
“Ultimately the share from Hambleton was going to be in excess of £53,000, plus £10,000 membership. I am not prepared to put something into an organisation that I am not sure will be around in the next financial year.
“I would rather throw the money into something that will benefit the residents of Hambleton moving forward as it will take a long time to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I would like to think that I can have a mechanism that can help our tourism industry within Hambleton. I have to look after the residents of Hambleton District.”
He added: “We haven’t taken this decision lightly. It is a poor state of affairs when one, if not more, councils can’t work with Welcome to Yorkshire because they don’t know how their money will be spent. This has been coming for a long time.”
WTY was reportedly close to collapse last year and was only able to pay staff in September after taking out a £500,000 loan from North Yorkshire County Council.
The relationship between the agency and some of the 20 district councils that provide its funding have often been strained, particularly since the departure two years ago of chief executive Sir Gary Verity.
Officially, Verity – who brought the 2014 Tour de France Grand Départ and the 2019 UCI Road Cycling World Championships to Yorkshire – resigned due to ill health, but at the time was facing allegations irregularities in expenses claimed and bullying staff.
The Tour de Yorkshire and Women’s Tour de Yorkshire began in 2015 as a legacy from the previous year’s hugely successful visit of the Tour de France and both draw big crowds and give the region worldwide TV exposure.
This year’s planned sixth editions of the races were due to have been held from 30 April to 3 May but were cancelled in March due to the coronavirus pandemic – and with WTY’s contract with ASO expiring this year, there is every prospect that the 2018 editions may prove to have been the final ones.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.