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Investigation and no confidence motion add to pressure on Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy

PUBLISHED: 09:57 17 August 2012 | UPDATED: 15:35 17 August 2012

Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy.

Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy.

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Pressure on Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy grew on two new fronts yesterday after the council ordered an investigation into his conduct and rebel Tory county councillors tabled a motion of no confidence in him.

The council’s senior standards enforcer has set up an independent inquiry after seven members of the public complained about Mr Murphy’s role in the affair of the controversial email sent by taxpayer-funded Conservative political assistant Kevin Vaughan on April 18.

The county council has been locked in a bitter dispute with West Norfolk Council over the planned incinerator at King’s Lynn and a county council investigation concluded Mr Murphy was behind the email which appeared to undermine West Norfolk leader Nick Daubney.

The complainants allege Mr Murphy failed to treat Mr Vaughan and Mr Daubney with respect and brought his office or the county council into disrepute.

A county council spokesman said yesterday that “a suitably qualified person wholly independent of the authority” would investigate whether there was a breach of the members’ code of conduct.

The council’s monitoring officer Victoria McNeill and independent person Stephen Revell will then decide whether to hold a hearing of the standards committee.

In a separate development, two west Norfolk county councillors, John Dobson and Brian Long, have tabled a motion of no confidence in Mr Murphy’s leadership for the next meeting of the Conservative council group on Friday August 31.

Mr Dobson said: “I have no confidence in him as leader and that’s why I am bringing the motion. It’s in order to clear up major confusion, chaos and strife across Norfolk with regard to the way the county council leader has been conducting himself.”

But Mr Murphy said last night that he had done nothing wrong and his accusers were not “Mother Teresa and her sister” and had themselves previously been censored by the Conservative group.

He said: “They are trying to make me the story. The story is that the county council is following government advice and planning to build an energy from waste plant. People who don’t like it don’t seem to have any arguments any more and the alternative is a targeted campaign against me.”

The motion will be the first time Mr Murphy’s position has been formally debated by the Tory county council group and opens up a third front the Conservative rebels’ attempt to oust him.

The North West Norfolk Conservative Association has raised concerns about Mr Murphy’s conduct in a letter to party co-chairman Baroness Warsi, while the South West Norfolk association last week wrote to the South Norfolk association, where Mr Murphy will stand in next year’s council elections, asking them to consider allegations he had brought the party into disrepute.

A spokesman for the national party said yesterday that it had received letters from both sides of the argument and was investigating.

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