A SPENDING watchdog could be asked to investigate if City of York Council proceeds with a £10,000 swimming pools consultation exercise.

Liberal Democrats have threatened to appeal to the district auditor if council leader Rod Hills (Lab) insists on the consultation promised while his group held control of the authority.

Two by-elections have left the council with no party in overall control, but Coun Hills, leader of a new council executive, says questionnaires will still go to every York household canvassing opinion on the Yearsley and Barbican pools.

But Liberal leader Coun Steve Galloway believes that would ignore a motion passed by the council this week - and would squander more than £10,000 of taxpayers' money.

He promised to make an official complaint to the auditor if the consultation went ahead.

He said: "My view is that the Liberal Democrat motion passed by the full council supersedes any decision made by a council committee."

The council's leisure services committee, which has now been abolished in favour of the new cabinet system, agreed the consultation last month.

But Coun Galloway's motion asked council officers to look at how pools could remain rather than if they would close, and that options of how to fund the pools be drawn up and explored by public consultation.

He said a consultation before those options are prepared would be a waste of money.

He said: "My view is that the Labour group does not have the authority to carry out the consultation following this motion, but I think Coun Hills is still intending to push ahead with it. I don't believe he can legally do that. The motion says we should prepare business plans first and then we will all agree with consultation. If he tries to push ahead before that I will contact the district auditor."

Coun Hills said: "If he didn't want the consultation to go ahead then he should have made that perfectly clear in his motion, but he did not. I don't believe this is against the law, we will be carrying on with the consultation and we will make a decision, hopefully in July, based on what the people of York tell us. I don't think Coun Galloway has a leg to stand on with this."

The auditor has the power to impose penalties on council members found to act illegally, and could ask for any money wrongly spent to be reimbursed by individuals responsible for carrying out the spending. If a complaint is made it would prompt a full scale investigation before a decision is made on whether the consultation is within the law.