CITY of York Council leader Keith Aspden faced calls for a vote of no confidence at an "extraordinary" council meeting tonight (Tuesday).

And a former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life also posed questions about accountability and leadership at the council.

The meeting was called to discuss a damning public interest report by independent auditors into the council's handling of a £404,000 payout to the former chief executive.

York Labour councillors planned to propose a vote of no confidence in the leader of the council, which would only be permitted if councillors agreed to suspend normal procedural rules. A leaflet shared by York Conservatives said Liberal Democrat Cllr Aspden would face a vote of no confidence and called for him to step down ahead of the meeting.

But a number of people, including former Lib Dem councillors, spoke in support of Cllr Aspden and raised concerns about the auditors' report and coverage of it in the media.

The auditors’ report highlighted a number of issues. They included the inadequacy of the business case presented to councillors for the payment, a misleading statement about the settlement agreement and questions over council leader Keith Aspden chairing a secret meeting to agree the payout without declaring a conflict of interest. At the time, the former chief executive had filed an employment tribunal claim against the council and Cllr Aspden personally.

Cllr Myers said the Labour Group would be tabling a vote of no confidence in the council leader following the independent external auditors’ damning report, claiming Cllr Aspden “must be held accountable”.

However he claimed the Greens appeared likely to keep the leader in power.

Sir Alistair Graham, chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life from 2004 to 2007, who lives in York, posed two questions for councillors at the meeting.

He said: "Of the seven principles of public life, I believe at least two are particularly relevant to this discussion. They are accountability and leadership.

"Who will be held accountable for the gross errors which are detailed in the public interest report?

"Has there been a failure of leadership which has involved the waste of public funds?"

But Philip Goldenberg, a former Lib Dem councillor for Woking Borough Council, former chair of a standards committee and overview and scrutiny committee and a former solicitor, said he had concerns about the auditors "trespassing on legal and standards territory".

Verna Campbell, former High Sheriff of York and former chair of Fulford Parish Council, of which Cllr Aspden is a member, said she was upset by media coverage of the public interest report.

York Press:

She said: "He [Cllr Aspden] is a very popular councillor. Residents praise him because he's hardworking and gets things done. He is kind, but most of all Keith has integrity.”

Former York Lib Dem councillor Ann Reid said she also had concerns about the auditors' focus on allegations of bullying against Cllr Aspden and the council. These allegations are denied.

The meeting started at 6pm and was still taking place at the time of publication.