YORK’S outgoing council leader David Carr has sensationally quit the Conservative group and party, accusing a faction within the authority’s group of committing an ‘act of betrayal’ against him.

He told stunned councillors at a full council meeting tonight that he and another councillor, Suzie Mercer, would continue to serve on the council but as Independents.

His move left City of York Council with no leader, with Lib Dem Cllr Andrew Waller as acting leader until another meeting in a week’s time.

In a stormy meeting, the councillors agreed a budget for the year ahead - including a 3.49 per cent council tax increase - but ended with no council leader in place, and uncertainty over when the matter might be solved.

In his resignation speech Cllr Carr said that judging by the many messages of support he had received, he had earned the respect of councillors of all parties, council staff, organisations and the residents of York.

“However, it seems that I have not enjoyed the same level of support within the Conservative group,” he said.

“A faction within that group – not all the members by any means - has not agreed with my leadership style for some time.

“As elected members, they have the right to disagree with me. They are answerable to the voters of York but I am afraid I can no longer belong to a group where some members - people I regarded as colleagues and even friends - are prepared to issue threats and to commit an act of betrayal against a capable and credible council leader. And I am not alone in that decision.

“On behalf of Cllr Mercer and myself, we both hereby resign with immediate effect from the Conservative group and the Conservative Party, due to unbridgeable differences between ourselves and some of the group and the association.”

He said this was not a decision they had taken lightly. “Trust and loyalty, virtues which we both hold in high esteem, do not seem to be treated with the same respect by all members of the group and therefore we have no other option but to leave.”

He said he and Cllr Mercer could not work effectively when they felt subjected to constant criticism and adverse briefing which seemed all too prevalent with some members of the group.

The councillor’s statement was issued at the start of a meeting intended to set the authority’s budget for the coming year.

The meeting was immediately adjourned by acting leader Andrew Waller. When it reconvened, he made a bid to defer the appointment of the new but that failed in the face of Conservative opposition, and when the Conservative’s new group leader Cllr Ian Gillies was proposed as new council leader he was opposed by Labour and Lib Dem councillors - meaning Cllr Waller was left in interim charge.

Lord Mayor Cllr Barbara Boyce said councillors would soon be told when the would be called back to resolve the situation - which could happen at planned meetings next week or next month.

The resignations also leave the joint Conservative and Lib Dem administration with a majority of just one in the council, which has 47 members.

Speaking after the meeting, both Cllr Waller and Cllr Gillies said the resignation had come as a shock to them - and said talks would have to take place in the next few days.

With the Lib Dems and Conservatives now tied on 12 councillors each, Cllr Waller said his group would have to talk about whether to nominate one of their own members as council leader.

"The change in numbers does change the dynamics, but I am confident there is a willingness to work through it."

Labour leader Janet Looker said the way the meeting had unfolded was "quite shocking" and hit out at the coalition parties for fighting their battles in a public council meeting.

"You would expect a coalition to sort out its differences in private."

Her party - which has 15 councillors in York - had thought seriously about trying to take control of the council when cracks appeared in the coalition last year, but ruled out trying to form a minority administration.

"They got themselves into this mess, it's up to them to sort it out."