OPPOSITION leaders are today calling for a full inquiry to find out whether the public were misled over a Cabinet member’s shock resignation.
Tory and Lib Dem chiefs are demanding to know whether the public were told the truth about why Labour’s new efficiency tsar Councillor Keith Morrell suddenly quit.
As reported in the Daily Echo, the council press office was told to issue a statement that Cllr Morrell was stepping down because of illness.
But amid concerns from worried family and friends, the lifetime party member went public to say he was actually fighting fit.
He claimed new city council leader Councillor Richard Williams had told him to say he was too unwell, to avoid an embarrassing public row.
In fact Cllr Morrell said the real reason was that he could not bear forcing through the devastating cuts he believed necessary after examining council finances.
His decision came three weeks after Labour took control of the authority from the Conservatives.
Now Tory opposition leader Councillor Royston Smith and Lib Dem leader Councillor Adrian Vinson have called for an emergency meeting to establish the truth. Cllr Smith said: “If it is true what Cllr Morrell says, Cllr Williams has used all of his tools that are available to him to protect his own position.
“It would be embarrassing if the council was dragged through this for what should have been an internal party matter.”
Cllr Vinson said: “It raises questions about the judgement of the leader of the council in making appointments in the first place and the handling of the fall-out of the resignation in the second.”
As the row escalated Cllr Williams jetted off to Brussels as part of work commitments outside the council.
He was unavailable to speak last night and a party spokesman declined to comment on the rift.
It also emerged last week that regional bosses had gagged Labour councillors to stop them commenting on the leadership rift.
However, Cllr Asa Thorpe, Cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “There is no doubt that the councillor we have is the best man to lead the city back to where it needs to be.”