Opposition councillors have called on the city leader to resign over the ‘major scandal’ of the secret £400K pay-out to former chief executive Mary Weastell.
As we reported yesterday, independent auditors released a damning report into City of York Council’s handling of Ms Weastell’s departure.
They say councillors deciding to award the £400,000 payout to Mary Weastell did not have all the information needed to make an informed decision, they said.
And safeguards to stop conflicts of interest were not in place.
Cllr Danny Myers, Leader of the Labour Group said today: “Liberal Democrat council leader Keith Aspden is totally discredited by the independent findings into his handling of his party’s pay-out and gagging clause to the former Chief Executive and must now resign.
“This is a major scandal and a significant misuse of public funds.
“The findings make clear he should have declared an interest when chairing the private meeting that decided on the pay-out, as he was named personally on the employment tribunal brought by the former chief executive.
“No doubt the obvious link between the tribunal case and the subsequent bumper payoff has not escaped the public’s attention.
“Questions must also now be raised over how the council came to execute such a flawed process – was this simply a catalogue of officer mistakes or a result of undue pressure on them from the council leader himself?
“Such a flagrant waste of taxpayers’ money cannot ever be acceptable and has resulted in a lack of public confidence and trust in how the council is being run.
“His position is now completely untenable, and there is no other option than for him to resign”.
‘Personalised witch hunt’
Cllr Keith Aspden hasn’t reacted to the criticisms.
But Cllr Darryl Smalley, Liberal Democrat Council group secretary, has responded.
He said: “Labour Group’s inaccurate and deliberate misrepresentation of the Audit Completion Report is indicative of the personalised witch hunt York Labour continue to conduct during an international pandemic.
“This HR process has now been twice dismissed by standards, following independent assessments. Instead of focusing on the immediate challenges facing our city, their interest is purely in their short term political gain.
“We make no apology for saving local taxpayers £200k per year from senior management.
“We believe that maintaining and investing in key services at this time of national crisis is what the council must focus on.
“If Labour wish to continue to play the man not the ball it is entirely up to them but we will focus on delivering for the city be that the York Central, Castle Gateway or the housing delivery programme – all projects Labour have equally sought to scupper for their own political gain.
“We see no need to take lectures from the Labour group, who during their period of control were infamous for lavishing taxpayers money on vanity projects and bodged bridge closures.
“It is time for the Labour group to begin working on policies which would deliver for local residents rather than spending their time chasing headlines.
“The council administration will continue to focus on delivering for the residents of York.”