York’s council coalition looks at risk today after the Lib Dems slammed the ‘unjust, unwarranted and unprecedented’ behaviour of their Tory partners.
Two senior Liberal Democrat councillors – deputy council leader Keith Aspden and culture, leisure and tourism portfolio holder Nigel Ayre – have been suspended from the ruling executive by Conservative council leader David Carr.
They have been ordered to stand aside as possible ‘serious allegations’ concerning their conduct are investigated.
Now the chairman of the Lib Dems, Cllr Stephen Fenton, has written to Cllr Carr saying the decision is “prejudicial and undermines the process of natural justice”.
He points out that other members of City of York Council have remained in post while complaints against them were investigated.
Breaking the agreement
The Lib Dems have accused the Tory group of breaking the agreement drawn up between the two groups when they took control of the council in May 2015.
This followed a meeting of the Lib Dem group to discuss the fallout from the council leader’s “abrupt decision” to remove the councillors from the executive.
At the meeting, the group confirmed their support for Cllrs Aspden and Ayre and reiterated their belief that the leader’s actions are prejudicial and unwarranted.
In his letter Cllr Fenton has requested a meeting with Cllr Carr to discuss a way forward.
He writes: “Through your action in removing Cllr Aspden and Cllr Ayre, and then taking on their portfolio responsibilities, you have broken the terms of the joint administration agreement, which requires there to be four executive members from both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups, and names Keith Aspden as deputy leader.
“Whilst the Liberal Democrat group will continue to put the needs of the city first, this situation must be rectified if our joint administration is to continue in its current form.”
The letter in full
Following a meeting of the City of York Council Liberal Democrat group, I am writing to request that you meet with me (as Group Chair) and Cllr Ann Reid (as Group Deputy Leader) to discuss the future of the joint administration.
The group stands firm in its support for Cllr Keith Aspden and Cllr Nigel Ayre, and believes that your action in removing them from their Executive positions is unjust, unwarranted and unprecedented – no council Executive member has been removed prior to standards investigation previously. Other members of the council have remained in post in key council committees not only at the point a complaint was made, but throughout the investigation and following its conclusion. We also believe that your action is prejudicial and undermines the process of natural justice.
Through your action in removing Cllr Aspden and Cllr Ayre, and then taking on their portfolio responsibilities, you have broken the terms of the joint administration agreement, which requires there to be four Executive members from both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups, and names Keith Aspden as Deputy Leader. Whilst the Liberal Democrat group will continue to put the needs of the city first, this situation must be rectified if our joint administration is to continue in its current form.
I am therefore proposing that we meet in order to discuss how the group’s concerns can be satisfactorily addressed. With the next Full Council meeting scheduled for 26 October, these issues will need to be resolved, one way or another, before the agenda is finalised. I will ask our group’s Political Assistant to liaise with your office to identify a mutually convenient date and time.
Cllr Stephen Fenton
Chair, City of York Council Liberal Democrat group