Tonight’s full council meeting has been postponed after a furious row between the political parties.
City of York Council’s chief operating officer had agreed to invoke his emergency powers to take the meeting online, after a number of cases of Covid among ruling councillors.
But this infuriated both the Labour and Conservative opposition groups, who claimed it was a potentially unlawful abuse of procedure, done to preserve the Lib Dem-Green coalition voting majority.
With 90 minutes left the meeting was due to start, the Lord Mayor of York, Councillor Chris Cullwick called it off.
National attention was focused on York council tonight, as the full council meeting was due to follow a debate on whether Prince Andrew should be stripped of his Freedom of the City following sex abuse allegations.
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Cllr Cullwick said: “While I want to thank council officers who have made very serious efforts to maintain the democratic process following a member request, it has become clear that there is disquiet across the political groupings at the arrangements put in place, which were devised to protect members, staff, and members of the public and press who might attend the meetings.
“On that basis, as chair of the meeting, and following consultation with the monitoring officer, I have asked the chief operating officer to adjourn the meetings until a new date in April.
“I am grateful to the chief operating officer for his confirmation this afternoon that he is content to make that decision and his confirmation that the meeting in April will be an in person meeting and that the monitoring officer has confirmed that all items published on the two agenda will remain as is until the reconvened meeting.”
Cllr Cullick added:
My role as Lord Mayor, first citizen and particularly on this occasion, as chair of council is to maintain a proper neutrality and a respect for all political points of view.
It has become clear throughout the day that members across most political groups are not all content with the arrangements made, and I have therefore decided that it would be in the best interests both of fairness and the democratic process, and maintaining the rights of those who would otherwise have to be absent through illness, to adjourn these meetings.