Liberal Democrats boycott meeting in "unusual feud" over council's constitution

Liberal Democrats boycotted a City of York Council meeting to protest changes to its constitution.

Labour, the party in administration, passed changes to the membership of the staffing matters and urgency committee on Thursday, March 21, at the full council meeting.

Labour has claimed that “the changes to this committee are urgently required due to an anomaly that means it is inquorate and unable to go ahead even if one of the committee members doesn’t attend.”

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Liberal Democrats said they were not given sufficient notice, but the urgency of the meeting, according to Labour, is to progress a senior staff restructure, with a financial saving linked to the structure which is put at risk if the process is delayed.

Liberal Democrats were absent from the audit and governance committeeLiberal Democrats were absent from the audit and governance committee
Liberal Democrats were absent from the audit and governance committee

But Labour has accused Liberal Democrats of taking “a conscious decision to prevent a senior restructure of the council from progressing, from a position of opposition.”

Previously, there were four members on the staffing matters and urgency committee, but there will be five in the future.

Labour said this ensures decisions can be made even if a Liberal Democrat councillor does not attend a meeting.

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But Liberal Democrats said they were informed of the decision to propose the changes at an audit and governance committee on March 20 at short notice.

They were given 10 days' notice, but Labour said they only legally have to give five days.

The leader of the council, Coun Claire Douglas, said: “It’s essential committees are properly constituted to carry out regular business of the council in a smooth and efficient manner.

“We also believe it’s essential councillors attend meetings and carry out the roles they were elected to, and which they are paid for.”

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Ahead of the meeting, Coun Andrew Hollyer, the Liberal Democrat chair of the audit and governance committee said: “It’s wrong to convene a meeting to amend the council's constitution, at short notice, whilst there is an ongoing broader constitution review that is considering all these issues in the round.

“Liberal Democrats will not be involved in this undemocratic meeting.”

Coun Chris Steward, Conservative group leader, said: “It is disappointing to have part of a full council meeting spent arguing about why Labour and Lib Dem councillors can't get together for a basic meeting of one council committee, all the more so the day after Lib Dem councillors boycotted a committee meeting in a silly protest in this unusual feud.

“There are so many huge issues we should be working on for residents, not discussing this sort of thing worse than playground politics.”

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