Welcome to Yorkshire faces new crisis as Piece Hall boss quits board over treatment of chief executive

Welcome to Yorkshire has been plunged into a deepening crisis after a senior board member resigned from the troubled tourism agency over the treatment of outgoing chief executive James Mason, it has been revealed.

Friday, 24th September 2021, 8:39 am
Nicky Chance-Thompson the Chief Executive of the Piece Hall trust and James Mason the Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire

A source has leaked a resignation email sent today by Nicky Chance-Thompson, chief executive of The Piece Hall in Halifax and a West Yorkshire Deputy Lieutenant, to fellow board members in which she said she felt “very uncomfortable” about the handling of an investigation into a complaint about Mr Mason and was no longer able to remain on the board.

When the Courier's sister newspaper The Yorkshire Post approached Ms Chance-Thompson regarding the leaked email and her resignation, she did not wish to comment.

Her departure comes three days after the shock announcement that Mr Mason would be leaving the organisation in October.

It followed Welcome to Yorkshire confirming last week that an unspecified complaint against Mr Mason was under investigation.

Mr Mason said he was unable to share details of what the complaint related to but denied any wrongdoing and said he was leaving with “my head held high”.

He said this week that there was “no link” between the investigation and the announcement of his departure next month.

However, Ms Chance-Thompson’s resignation letter to other board members stated: “As a number of you are aware, I have felt very uncomfortable around how the allegations against James Mason were raised and the process and series of actions that followed.

“The main area of concern to me is that the Governance Committee findings on the matter appear to have been dismissed, without the board having the opportunity to properly consider them.”

It added: “I am also deeply concerned about the continuous leaks to the media, and the impact that has had on the organisation and our collective reputation.

“As such, I feel I am left with no option other than to resign.”

The letter said: “It is with great regret that after emergency discussions held with the chair of The Piece Hall Trust and other advisers, that I have come to a decision that I must resign from the Welcome to Yorkshire board, as a Director, Ambassador and as the Tourism Recovery Taskforce Chair with immediate effect.

“I joined the organisation as I have a genuine passion to promote this great county, which as we know, has so much to offer its residents and visitors and to support the sector as we emerge from the pandemic. I believed Welcome to Yorkshire could be powerful in that regard.”

It concluded: “I wish the organisation well in whatever shape or form it takes in the future.”

Welcome to Yorkshire has refused to release any details about the complaint but said last week that investigations were “ongoing”.

When Mr Mason’s departure was announced this week, the organisation - which receives millions in public funding every year - again said it would not discuss any detail about the complaint, how it had been investigated and whether the issue had any bearing on Mr Mason’s resignation.

A Welcome to Yorkshire spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Nicky Chance-Thompson has today resigned from the Welcome to Yorkshire board.

“Welcome to Yorkshire wish to thank Ms Chance-Thompson for her contribution since joining the board in May 2020.

“Welcome To Yorkshire are disappointed that Ms Chance-Thompson was not able to stay and support the organisation and staff through this difficult period and wish her well for the future.

“Welcome to Yorkshire can confirm that all complaints are taken seriously by the organisation and its board members. As a matter of principle Welcome to Yorkshire do not comment on any allegations made against any individual.”Crunch board meeting in private next week

Welcome to Yorkshire board members will hold a crunch meeting behind-closed-doors next week to discuss the organisation’s ‘next steps’ following Mr Mason’s resignation.

Board meetings are normally held in public but next Thursday’s gathering is being described as an “informal discussion” by the organisation rather than a formal meeting.

A formal board meeting will be organised for October, in advance of the next scheduled meeting which was due to take place in November.

A spokesperson said: “The meeting of Welcome to Yorkshire’s board on Thursday 30th September will be an informal discussion following the announcement of the resignation of Welcome to Yorkshire’s chief executive, James Mason, who will stay in post until Friday 22nd October. It is not a formal board meeting.

“Welcome to Yorkshire’s next board meeting is scheduled for November 2021, however due to the recent announcement an interim board meeting will be organised for a date in October, to be confirmed."