THE new chair of Welcome to Yorkshire has admitted he was “surprised” to have been offered the role.

Peter Box, who is standing down from his role as the leader of Wakefield Council to concentrate on work at the tourism agency, said he’d been formally offered his new job just 24 hours before it was publicly announced he’d been appointed.

In his first public address since the news, Coun Box told a Wakefield Council meeting that he’d made the decision to step down as leader earlier than planned, after consulting with those closest to him.

But he added that he was looking forward to working at Welcome to Yorkshire, which has been beset by troubles this year following the resignation of former chief Gary Verity.

He told councillors: “It was last Monday afternoon that I was asked to chair Welcome to Yorkshire, which was somewhat of a surprise if I’m honest. It is not possible to do both jobs because you’ve all seen the setback that Welcome to Yorkshire has had.

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“It’s a big job to do, but one that I will relish doing."

“But it means I’m absolutely convinced, having spoken to friends and family, that I’m right to give up the council leadership at the end of November.

“I’ll ensure a smooth transition so that (new leader) Denise (Jeffery) can hit the ground running.”

Coun Box also addressed Wakefield’s opposition Conservative group, saying with a smile that he was “sorry for the trouble I’ve caused you”.

He added: “It was never personal at all, just political.

“But I suppose I should do the right thing and apologise for all the grief I’ve given you over 21 years.”

Conservative group leader Nadeem Ahmed, who has previously been involved in several bad-tempered clashes with Coun Box at meetings over the last year, paid tribute to the outgoing leader.

He said: “Coun Box has always been very professional in the council chamber. I’ve travelled to many different places with him and he’s shown a different side to him – one that I think that we all have to do as politicians.

“The council is losing a decent person today, and I think the Labour group is as well.

“Politically I’ve disagreed with him on lots of things, as well as his taste in music, but I think it’s good that we’ve got someone at Welcome to Yorkshire who’s going to fight for Wakefield.”