SOUTHAMPTON’S new council leader will be forced to answer claims he misled the public over the resignation of a Cabinet member at a special council meeting later this month.

Conservatives have called an extraordinary council meeting to demand Labour councillor Richard Williams is removed from his office for bringing the council into disrepute.

The council leader is accused of misleading the public over the real reasons for the resignation of his efficiency tsar just two weeks into the job to avoid political embarrassment.

Cllr Williams said in a council statement that Councillor Keith Morrell had quit for health reasons, when in fact he was fighting fit.

As revealed by the Daily Echo, Cllr Morrell later admitted it was a “fiction” cooked up to avert a damaging public policy split after he had told Cllr Williams he was going as he could not defend looming cuts and savings that will need to be made to balance the books.

Cllr Williams, who said he welcomed the debate to clear up any “confusion”, insists Cllr Morrell told him he was quitting due to ill health.

The Tory motion states: “In view of the real reason for the resignation of councillor Morrell as Cabinet member for efficiency and innovation, being that he did not agree with the new Labour administration’s proposals to deal with the council’s budget problems and not that he was ill as publicly stated and repeated by the leader of the council, that the leader has brought the council into disrepute and accordingly the council has no confidence in him, and resolves to remove him from the office as Leader”.

Labour Cabinet members, who were initially gagged from speaking to the press by regional party bosses, told the Echo they have full confidence in Cllr Williams.

The extraordinary council meeting will be held on June 25.