COUNCILLORS were advised not to comment on a damning public interest report into the council's handling of the payout to the former chief executive.

City of York Council's barrister sent legal advice to councillors when the independent auditors' report was published, saying councillors and officers should say they cannot comment "for legal reasons" if asked about the document.

Public interest reports are issued when a significant matter is brought to the notice of auditors and they need to bring it to the attention of the council and the public.

A letter to councillors from the council barrister, seen by The Press, says: "My opinion is that if asked to comment on Mazars’ report or the agreement in advance of any public meeting arranged pursuant to Schedule 7, City of York Council officers and members should simply state that they are not able to do so for legal reasons and that the report will be addressed at a later meeting to be arranged in accordance with the 2014 Act."

Ian Floyd, the council's chief operating officer, said councillors can discuss the report at a public meeting on May 4, but not before then due to a confidentiality agreement with the former chief executive.

He said: “As Mazars have published a report in the public interest, councillors will be able to discuss any of the circumstances at the full council meeting on May 4.

"Due to elements of the confidentially agreement councillors (and the council) are currently unable to discuss details of the agreement in further detail in advance of the full council meeting."