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York’s council leader has hit back in the escalating row over the suspension of two executive members, saying he could have been accused of a cover-up if he’d done nothing.

Cllr David Carr said he had moved to suspend two Lib Dem councillors, deputy leader Keith Aspden and Nigel Ayre, from the executive committee “following outside legal advice”.

He said previously they faced serious allegations. In a statement issued on Monday afternoon (September 4), he said he would not comment on these allegations at this time.

And he refuted the Lib Dem group’s claims that, by suspending the two men, he was breaking his coalition pledges.

Earlier in the day, Lib Dem group chairman had released a letter to Cllr Carr in which he called the decision “unjust, unwarranted and unprecedented”.

‘Unfortunate necessity’

Cllr Keith Aspden
In the Conservative Group statement, Cllr Carr said that he and his party colleagues were taking a measured, professional approach to the “unfortunate necessity” of requiring Cllrs Aspden and Ayre to stand down.

He said: “We have endeavoured to play this strictly by the book following outside legal advice.

“We gave the two councillors a chance to stand down on their own, which they declined to take.

“There are several points during the Standards Committee process when it would have been appropriate for us to act, but had we not acted when we did I have no doubt that our own group would have been accused of complacency and perhaps of a cover up.”

He wants other existing executive members to take over their portfolios temporarily.

But Cllr Carr said he was “open to receiving nominations from the Liberal Democrats to temporarily fill these positions”.

New deputy leader

York council chamber

York council must have a deputy leader in place, and he called on the Lib Dems to nominate someone:

At the very least we need the Liberal Democrats to name a deputy leader, which is a CYC constitutional requirement, who must be a member of the executive, and if they do not put someone forward for this position by the end of the week I may be forced to name my own.

Lib Dem chairman Cllr Fenton requested a meeting with the council leader. David Carr says he is happy to meet.

“Unfortunately, although I have cleared my diary to meet with the Liberal Democrats as soon as possible, we have now learned that the earliest they can meet is September 11.

“This does not suggest any urgency on their part to come to an arrangement which allows the administration to work effectively for York residents, despite their protestations to the contrary.

“We are not breaking our coalition pledges to the Liberal Democrats and we hope this unfortunate situation can be resolved as quickly and fairly as possible.”

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