Council leader ‘fails to answer questions’ on £400K pay-off to chief exec

City of York Council HQ. Photograph: YorkMix
6 Mar 2020 @ 8.05 am
| Politics

“The silence around the reported senior officer payoff is deafening.”

That’s the verdict of one councillor after he asked City of York Council leader Keith Aspden a series of questions about the £400K pay-off to chief executive Mary Weastell.

Labour’s Pete Kilbane asked Cllr Aspden these questions about the affair:

  • if, given the standards case in which he was found to have breached the councillor code of conduct, he gave assurances to the chief executive that he would be able to work constructively with her once he became council leader
  • what actions he himself took as leader to address the underlying causes of the chief executive’s sickness absence in order to support her return to work
  • if employment tribunal proceedings had been issued against the council, as has been reported, and if so, were any claims made against Cllr Aspden personally.

He said he received no answer to any of the questions.

In response Cllr Aspden says he responded to Cllr Kilbane’s email with an offer of a meeting – see below.

‘Silence is deafening’

York councillor Pete Kilbane

Cllr Kilbane said: “The leader committed this administration to being open and transparent and on a host of questions that he is legally able to answer, he’s chosen to remain silent.  One has to ask why?”

He added:

  • The silence around the reported senior officer payoff is deafening.

    The unwillingness of the Leader to discuss the Chief Executive’s absence from work is very worrying from a council leader who has already proved himself willing to play fast and loose with the rules governing appropriate conduct for councillors.

Cllr Aspden was found in breach of the councillor code of conduct in January 2019 for discussing the personal details of candidates for a non-political council job in a York pub with Liberal Democrat party members.  The investigative process was facilitated by the council’s chief executive.

Former Conservative leader of the council, who worked with Cllr Aspden under the previous Tory-Lib Dem coalition, claims Cllr Aspden refused to work with the chief executive from May 2019.

“We will continue to ask questions to get to the bottom of what has gone on. Until they have been answered, York residents cannot be reassured over the use of their council tax money,” Cllr Kilbane added.

Keith Aspden’s response

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Cllr Aspden said: “It is incredibly disappointing that the Labour Group are choosing to continue to play party politics with an individual HR issue.”

Employment legislation restricted what the council could say.

“Furthermore, despite the misleading claims from the Labour Group, I responded to Cllr Kilbane’s email within two days of receiving it, including offering to organise a meeting between himself, the council’s monitoring officer and the head of human resources, attending that meeting myself, if it would be helpful for Cllr Kilbane.

Cllr Kilbane is yet to respond to my email, or take-up the offer of assistance to help set-up this meeting. One would assume it has been a tactic to simply continue to play party politics, rather than constructively engage.”