A furious row has broken out over the way City of York Council is run.
York’s Labour group has accused the ruling Lib Dems of ‘acting unlawfully’ and ‘subverting democracy’.
They argue that the Lib Dems – who are in a ruling coalition with the Greens – have ‘voted through a majority of its own councillors onto key council committees to block scrutiny of how it is running the council’.
New Labour group leader, Cllr Pete Kilbane said: “The council under Liberal Democrat control is establishing a pattern of acting unlawfully to avoid transparency and now is even going to the lengths of subverting democracy.
“The public have different political viewpoints but what most people accept is that decision making bodies should reflect the political makeup of the people they vote for. But that democratic principle has been thrown out the window by the Lib Dems, backed up by their Green Party coalition partners.
“Key committees will now by blocked from providing any proper scrutiny to ruling councillors in a political arrangement that shows ruling parties to be a self-serving political elite that treat democracy and accountability as optional extras.
“Roads are disintegrating, social care is in crisis and a significant number of our residents are reliant on foodbanks, but all this administration is interested in is covering its own tracks and reducing transparency over its own failing performance.”
‘Party political charade’
Labour says it means both the audit and governance, and corporate scrutiny committees, tasked with holding the ruling group to account, “will both be stymied in doing their jobs with Lib Dem majorities, despite the Group only forming a minority on the council”.
And this follows the scandal over the secret £400K payment to former chief executive Mary Weastell, suggesting more scrutiny was needed.
But the Lib Dems hit back. “The Labour group continue to play party politics and seek cheap headlines by issuing inaccurate and factually wrong statements,” Cllr Darryl Smalley said.
“The placements on committees and outside bodies were voted on at Annual Council following the advice and confirmation of council officers. This follows strict proportionality rules as per Section 15 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.
“To attempt to turn what was a pleasant civic celebration and annual meeting into a party political charade is truly disappointing.
“Aiming to derail this meeting and delay committee position places speaks to the lengths the Labour party will go to play political games.
“It’s most surprising to see that the Labour group is still unable to accept the results of the 2019 elections and the fact that this city clearly rejected the outdated and lacklustre politics of York Labour.
“Having received the most votes and the most seats following that election, the Lib Dem and Green administration is getting on with delivering for the city, despite the Labour Group’s best efforts to derail processes and sabotage plans to bring about improvements in our city.”