The leader of Eden Council has survived a vote of no confidence in her leadership.

Eden Conservative councillors, joined by three independents, voted for the removal of Liberal Democrat Virginia Taylor from her position as leader at Thursday's meeting of the council, prompted by accusations she had "failed to follow due process" following the departure of Eden Council's chief executive, Rose Rouse.

Their 16 votes were defeated by 20 votes against the motion, as independent, Labour, Green Party and Liberal Democrat councillors denounced the Conservative group's accusations that Dr Taylor had acted with impropriety.

The motion had been brought before the council by Conservative group leader and Greystoke ward councillor Debra Wicks.

She lambasted Dr Taylor for what she described as a "failure to consult members and follow due process" following Mrs Rouse's departure from the council.

Mrs Rouse's contract with Eden Council was terminated "by mutual consent" in late August, leaving the council without a chief executive.

Dr Taylor outlined at Thursday's meeting that following Mrs Rouse's departure, the specifics of which are covered by a legal confidentiality agreement, "informal" discussions between her and Carlisle City Council's leader, John Mallinson, took place over the possibility of the city council's chief executive Jason Gooding taking on the additional role of Eden's chief executive on an interim basis.

"As leader, I am empowered to investigate solutions, and indeed it might be seen as a dereliction of duty for me not to," Dr Taylor said.

"I am not empowered to implement solutions, and there are no pathways by which I can.

"Simply, at no time have I intended, attempted, or actually failed to follow due process."

These discussions were characterised as "secret, detailed negotiations" by Conservative councillor Ian Chambers, and an example of a "culture of secrecy, strategy and subplots" by Ms Wicks.

Former Eden council leader, Conservative Kevin Beaty, said that to him it was "quite clear" that discussions with Carlisle City Council, local authorities body North West Employers and Dr Taylor had taken place before Eden Council's human resources and appeals committee became involved, something that he said contravenes the council's constitution given that "HR and appeals are the only committee in this council who should be involved in replacing the chief executive".

This was rejected as a misrepresentation by Dr Taylor.

"One role of the leader defined in the constitution is to deliver effective strategic decision making," she said.

"I have informal political discussions with others at a high level. And in one, a solution very favourable to the authority arose."

She denied that she had stood in the way of or attempted to circumnavigate correct procedure.

"The decision process is with the HR and appeals committee first and subsequently full council," she said.

"It is not my role to arrange, neither can I forbid, HR and appeals meetings.

"That these were not in the diary already may perhaps be ascribed to our tiny staff team and to annual leave.

"I was happy to meet with the HR and appeals committee informally."

Dr Taylor condemned the attempt to remove her as motivated by jealousy, given that after years of being in power the Conservative group is now "on the outside looking in".

"I am able to engage in a civilised and constructive way with people of all political persuasions," Dr Taylor said.

"At the moment, this includes delivering my portfolio for devolution and local government reorganisation.

"The Eden Conservative Group cannot bear any of this. They are on the outside looking in, and cannot adjust to not being the first to know, and sometimes not having the right to confidential material.

"Me knowing things and them not has to be culpable, has to be lack of transparency and plotting – it isn't.

"It's the difference between being in administration and being in opposition.

"The Conservative group are trying to undermine proposals very advantageous to Eden, even though they themselves 10 years ago proposed the exact same thing.

"The Conservative Party used to be a party of probity and competence. But this group are anarchists."

Another accusation levelled at Dr Taylor by the Conservative group was a lack of engagement with council members.

"The leader says she shares and consults as soon as possible," Ms Wicks said.

"I challenge any member to testify that they have been kept informed and emailed about the situation."

Dr Taylor refuted allegations that she had kept councillors in the dark about the plans.

"I consulted group leaders at the end of August," she said.

"And the executive were fully involved throughout.

"The agreed timetable with Carlisle [on announcing the proposal to share a chief executive] was to synchronise to both sets of councillors the first announcement of the possibility of a joint chief executive, so that neither would be annoyed that the other knew first."

Eden's Labour group leader, councillor Lissie Sharp, labelled the attempt to remove Dr Taylor as leader as an "opportunistic grab for power" and an attempt to "destabilise" the multi-party "rainbow" coalition running Eden Council.

"Eden Council has had the challenge of the departure of its chief executive," she said.

"And what does the opposition do? It jumps on some small element of procedure to try to pretend the leadership has done something wrong, and to destabilise the council at this extremely dangerous time.

"Let's consider the motives of the opposition, which still apparently haven't come to terms with the results of the last election.

"Are they trying to disrupt and destabilise the rainbow coalition, something which has taken away their historic god-given right to rule Eden?

"We need to look at this motion as what it really is: an opportunistic grab for power at a time when we need to be concentrating on this pandemic and supporting our communities."

This was again something vehemently denied by Ms Wicks.

"This is not a Tory coup. As group leader, I can confirm that the Conservative Group in Eden have no immediate interest in becoming the administration or part of the administration of Eden District Council," she said.

Conservative councillor Phil Dew characterised the party group's position as one of "principle".

"The Conservative group is not acting out of spite, as has been suggested, but out of principle," he said.

’Councillor Taylor may have been acting in good faith in her negotiations with the leader of Carlisle City Council.

"But the truth is, that for whatever reason, be it ignorance or naiveté, she overstepped the mark, and at the very least she should acknowledge her failure to follow due process.

"A formal meeting of the HR and appeals committee should have been convened at the earliest possible date, as soon as the impending departure of the chief executive became known.

"She's behaved foolishly and ineptly.

"In my opinion, the position of the leader is untenable. She should do the honourable thing and resign."

Leader of the Green Party group and chairwoman of the human resources and appeals committee, councillor Ali Ross, remained convinced that the Conservative group's motion to remove Dr Taylor as leader was "shameless opportunism".

"If there is criticism that this committee did not meet early enough during this process, I would point out that the leader is not responsible for the meeting of the HR and appeals committee," she said.

"However I would defy anyone to suggest that the process [followed] by the committee is anything other than constitutional.

"I believe that this motion has no validity, and is in fact a piece of shameless opportunism.

"Councillor Taylor is very ably leading the council in its plan for Eden's recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic - [in] its preparation and response to the resurgence of the virus, its determination to secure the best outcome for Eden's residents in the proposed local Government reorganisation, and in its vital and ambitious programme to transform the resilience and sustainability of Eden for current and future generations."