Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy faces standards hearing

Image caption Derrick Murphy will be summoned before the authority's standards committee

A Conservative council leader alleged to have undermined the Tory leader of another local authority has stepped down.

Norfolk County Council received seven complaints about leader Derrick Murphy.

They relate to an email sent by a Conservative political assistant at County Hall about the leader of West Norfolk Council, Nick Daubney.

Mr Murphy said he had requested a public hearing and would be contesting the allegations.

On Wednesday afternoon, he announced he was stepping down as leader with immediate effect.

He said he made the decision to prepare for a Standards Committee hearing into the allegations against him.

"I should be focused on working with my cabinet to prepare for the 2013 Budget," he said. "It is my hope and expectation that I will clear my name and return to the position as leader."

Mr Murphy said he would be calling as a witness Kevin Vaughan, the Conservative political assistant whose email to BBC Radio Norfolk prompted the controversy.

Mr Vaughan sent the email in April 2012, two days before Mr Daubney was due to appear on the station to discuss a proposed waste incinerator at Saddlebow, King's Lynn.

'Serious leadership challenge'

The incinerator is backed by the county council but opposed by West Norfolk Council.

In the email, released after a Freedom of Information request, Mr Vaughan suggested it might be "pertinent information" for presenter Nick Conrad to know that Mr Daubney was facing "a serious leadership challenge".

An independent investigation, commissioned by the county council, concluded that in sending the email, Mr Vaughan had been acting on Mr Murphy's wishes.

The council said it had taken "appropriate action" but that Mr Vaughan's actions had not warranted his dismissal.

However, he later resigned.

The council ordered a report by local government expert Jenni Richards QC into complaints against Mr Murphy.

The contents of her report have not been made public.


But after receiving it over the Christmas holiday, the council's monitoring officer Victoria McNeill and "independent person" Stephen Revell agreed that Mr Murphy should face the council's standards committee.

A council spokesman said: "The committee will consider the report, following the procedures laid out in the county council's constitution and decide whether any action is appropriate."

He said a date for the hearing was being scheduled in liaison with the committee chairman.

If the seven-person standards committee concludes Mr Murphy has breached the code on this occasion, it could recommend to the council that he be removed as leader.

The complaint is the latest in a series against Mr Murphy, who has led the Conservative-controlled council since October 2010.

In January last year, the seventh complaint against him in 12 months ended with a standards committee concluding that he had been disrespectful to Liberal Democrat opposition leader Paul Morse, but had not breached the councillor code of conduct.

Deputy leader Bill Borrett will be acting leader of the council.

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