'People were questioning his decisions' - York council leader ousted by fellow Conservatives after no confidence vote

David Carr, left, has been replaced by former York Lord Mayor Ian Gillies as the leader of York Conservatives
David Carr, left, has been replaced by former York Lord Mayor Ian Gillies as the leader of York Conservatives
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The leader of City of York Council is set to be replaced after being ousted from the top position within his local Conservative group.

Coun David Carr was asked to step down as leader of the City of York Conservative Group, with former Lord Mayor Ian Gillies taking over, after a vote of no confidence against him.

Coun Gillies, a Rural West ward councillor who has previously led the York Conservatives himself, is currently the authority's executive member for transport and planning.

When approached by The Yorkshire Post today, he confirmed that Coun Carr had been asked to step down and that he had taken over. He said: "He is an honest man, is David Carr, and this was not a coup led by me."

Coun Gillies said the leadership of the council was "not something I covet" but insisted that change was necessary and that "it became apparent that an experienced hand on the tiller was the first requirement".

David Carr had been heavily criticised in the last week after a Conservative councillor was sacked and another resigned from the authority's ruling executive. Coun Gillies said this controversy had brought things "into focus" but that on a more general level "people were questioning his decisions".

He added in an official statement: “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."

The announcement comes as the authority, which is run by a coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, prepares to reveal the details of its draft budget, which is due to be approved next month.

Last week the council's executive voted through its controversial local plan setting out its strategic priorities, without the support of Coun Gillies, who warned that it may not be approved by the Government in its current form. But he said he would support the decision made by his colleagues.

Coun Gillies will not take over as leader of City of York Council until a decision has been made at a full council meeting on February 22, where the budget will be set.

A statement by the York Conservatives said: "The complete membership of the four Conservative councillors on the ruling Executive will be determined shortly."

Coun Carr was unavailable for comment.

It was reported that Stuart Rawlings was sacked from the executive by Coun Carr on 23 January over a potential conflict of interest. It related to a piece of land in which a member of Mr Rawlings' extended family had an interest, which ultimately was never included in the draft plan.

Mr Rawlings denied any wrongdoing and said he "immediately declared the issue" to the council, but he was dismissed. A second executive member, Sam Lisle, then resigned his place on the executive in response, citing irreconcilable differences with Mr Carr.

Coun Carr said in a statement: “I stand by every decision I have made as Leader of the Council and Chair of the Executive and I believe those decisions will be vindicated in due course.
“I have the support of a substantial number of the Conservative Group, my conscience is clear and, most importantly, my integrity remains intact. I wish my successor, Cllr Ian Gillies, well in his position as leader of the Conservative Group.”

Responding to the news, the council's Labour group leader, Coun Janet Looker, said: “The chaotic situation at the top of the Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition continues, with real concerns for stable and effective governance of the city given the constant changes in membership of the council’s executive.

“We now have a leader in waiting who doesn’t agree with the Local Plan his administration has just approved. Conservatives and Liberal Democrats appear to remain committed to submitting a development plan for York which provides insufficient affordable homes and which will not pass formal inspection.

“The two parties also appear unable to agree a budget. Will Coun Gillies even be able to carry his party on agreeing a level of council tax with the Liberal Democrats, a Tory Group as keen as ever to cut valued public services even further than it has done since 2015?

“This administration is more concerned with in-fighting, within and between the two parties than providing the stable governance and strong leadership this city needs.

"The focus should be on York’s economy, providing the homes York people need and addressing the needs of the most vulnerable in the city. Instead, the two groups are more focused on personal battles and ambitions which in no way serve the public interest”.