Call for resignations over Lendal Bridge trial
Updated 11:41am Thursday 17th July 2014 in News
TWO top councillors will formally be urged at tonight’s full council meeting to apologise and resign over the 'botched' Lendal Bridge trial.
Liberal Democrats will claim the Labour cabinet member responsible for the trial closure of the bridge, Dave Merrett, had said in April that if the trial was proved to be unlawful, he would resign.
"It has been proved unlawful and therefore he has to leave the Cabinet," claimed the party's group leader Keith Aspden, adding that council leader James Alexander should 'follow him out,' after 'failing to get a grip of the issue from day one.'
Cllr Aspden will also call tonight for all 60,000 motorists who were fined for crossing the bridge to be repaid automatically, without having to apply for a refund.
His resignation calls were give short shrift by Labour, who accused opposition parties of political point scoring after putting Lendal Bridge closure in the council's transport plan when they ran the authority.
Cllr Alexander said the Conservative group leader, Chris Steward, had previously been called on to resign when he had said 'don't give to food banks as the poor are feckless' and a Liberal Democrat Executive Member - Ann Reid - had previously been urged to resign when she had arranged for her daughter to travel automatically through all traffic lights for her wedding. "Neither did," he said.
“Labour tried some bold action to tackle congestion, it was controversial and unpopular and we have listened. What is important is we now try to work together to tackle congestion which is an issue that will not go away."
Cllr Steward said it was disappointing the Labour leader had linked calls for him to stand down over the Lendal Bridge 'shambles' to events going back years.
He denied saying what Cllr Alexander alleged, but admitted he had said 'something wrong' about food banks early last year and had promptly apologised afterwards.
"My point was that poverty in the third world was far greater than the UK, but I made that point badly," he said. "Cllr Alexander has refused to apologise for any of his many failings and sadly always avoids any responsibility or lashes out at others with personal attacks instead."
The row come as a leading QC has questioned the legality of the authority's decision - as a 'goodwill gesture' - to provide the refunds.
Paul Greaney, who works from chambers in Leeds but said he was speaking as a York council tax payer, said the council’s position essentially was that it intended to give away money to which it contended it was lawfully entitled.
"On its face, that is a surprising position for a public body to adopt," he said, asking what power the council purported to be exercising in making such payments and, if such power existed, what reasons were asserted for the give away when public funds were scarce.
A council spokeswoman said the authority would be responding to the QC’s claims in due course, and could not comment on them at this stage.