A COUNCILLOR who was sacked from City of York Council's executive - sparking a bitter rift within the Conservative group - says he has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Cllr Stuart Rawlings was axed as executive member for Education, Children & Young People in January by the then council leader David Carr over a potential conflict of interest regarding York's Local Plan.

Cllr Rawlings, a Tory councillor for Rawcliffe and Clifton Without, said today that a sub-committee of the authority's standards board had cleared him of any wrongdoing after he had referred himself to it.

“I am very pleased that the standards committee has cleared me of any wrongdoing in such a short space of time," he said.

"I have always been adamant that I did nothing wrong and referred myself to the standards committee in the interests of transparency, openness, and to retain the trust of York residents.

“This result vindicates my self-referral and the comments I have made to the media since I was dismissed from the executive.

"The standards process should be confidential and certainly not weaponised. It’s important that fellow councillors are not deterred from referring themselves if issues arise in future.”

“Although this has been a difficult time I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contacted me over the last six weeks for their support and good wishes.”

The Press has reported previously that the row centred on a plot of land which developers had identified to potentially become part of the city’s Local Plan for housing development.

A member of Cllr Rawling’s extended family had an interest in the land, but Cllr Rawlings said the link was remote and he spoke to council bosses as soon as he was aware of it. The land had not been accepted as part of the draft plan.

When Cllr Rawlings left the executive, a public statement from the Conservative group said he had “stepped down for personal reasons" but he subsequently called that statement “factually incorrect” and said he did not agree to its release.

Cllr Carr said then he “regretted” the situation, but expected the “highest standards of conduct and integrity” from senior members.

A second executive member, Cllr Sam Lisle, resigned within hours of Cllr Rawlings' departure.

Cllr Carr was subsequently ousted by his party colleagues after Tory councillors met two days in a row. Cllr Carr, who was understood to have lost a vote of no confidence, was replaced as Tory leader by Cllr Ian Gillies.

He remained in charge of the council until later last month, when he told stunned councillors he was quitting the Conservative group and party, accusing a faction within the authority’s group of committing an ‘act of betrayal’ against him.

He said he and another councillor, Suzie Mercer, would continue to serve on the council but as Independents. His move left the council with no leader, with Lib Dem Cllr Andrew Waller as acting leader.

He claimed some members of thr group - whom he had regarded as colleagues and even friends - were prepared to 'issue threats and to commit an act of betrayal against a capable and credible council leader.'

The row meant four senior councillors had left the executive since last summer, with Liberal Democrats Keith Aspden and Nigel Ayre suspended by Cllr Carr in August. That situation still remains unresolved, although North Yorkshire Police announced in December that they would not be investigating allegations – which had still not been made public.