Conservative York Council leader ousted by party

Image: City of York Council

The leader of York City Council, Councillor David Carr, has been ousted from his role  following a vote of no confidence by his fellow Conservative party colleagues. He was dismissed as the Conservative group leader on 31 January, although remains council leader until a vote can take place at the next full council meeting on 22 February.

Cllr Carr has been replaced as Conservative group leader by Cllr Ian Gillies, Executive Council member for Transport and Planning and former Lord Mayor of York.

The vote of no confidence came after Cllr Carr dismissed fellow Conservative executive member Cllr Stuart Rawlings on Monday 22 January over a conflict of interest with the city’s Local Plan for housing and development. A member of Cllr Rawlings’ family had interest in a plot of land which was identified by developers for part of the Local Plan, but has since been rejected. While Cllr Rawlings maintains he made council leaders aware as soon as he realised and claims that his connection to the land is distant, Cllr Carr saw fit to dismiss him.

The row became inflamed further when the Conservative group released a statement on Tuesday 23 January saying that Cllr Rawlings had “stepped down for personal reasons”, with Cllr Rawlings hitting back and calling the statement “factually incorrect”, indicating that he did not agree to its release. Cllr Sam Lisle, who held the Housing and Safer Neighbourhoods portfolio, also resigned within hours of Cllr Rawlings’ sacking, explaining “irreconcilable differences” with Cllr Carr led to his decision.

Cllr Rawlings said: “I have done nothing wrong. Openness and transparency are core values which I will always stand for and uphold. As such I self-referred the issue to the Standards Committee on Monday evening because I believe it is the right thing to do.”

At the time Cllr Carr stood by his dismissal of Cllr Rawlings, saying “I stand by every decision I have made as leader of the council and I believe those decisions will be vindicated in due course.”

New Conservative leader Cllr Gillies is the third leader the group has had since 2015. Cllr Gillies previously acted as group leader, but in 2014, when Labour held control of the council, he was dismissed after party officials cited concerns over his record and effectiveness. York Council is currently run by a coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

The dismissal comes amid news that council tax is set to rise in York by 3.5 per cent, although as most students are exempt from this charge it is unlikely to have an impact on them.

Cllr Gillies said: “On behalf of the group I would like to thank Cllr Carr for all of his hard work and for the many hours he has put in leading our joint administration. Our group has resolved to pull together to strengthen our position and to continue to lead an administration which has put front line services at the centre of what we do.