Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy, who has temporarily stepped down.

Pressure mounts on Norfolk County Council leader to go permanently

Friday, January 11, 2013
12.00 PM

Pressure has mounted on former Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy to step down for good, although he maintains he will return to the helm of County Hall.

And the man who has replaced him has hit back at claims that Mr Murphy’s actions could damage the Conservative party’s chances in May’s elections and that the county council, set to lose its chief executive David White in a matter of months, is “rudderless”.

Mr Murphy, who had been leader at the Conservative-controlled county council since October 2010, stepped down from that post on Tuesday to focus on preparing for a standards hearing into his conduct.

But he said he regards that resignation as temporary, and wants to come back after he proves he did nothing wrong.

The complaints surround an email sent by Kevin Vaughan, then political assistant to the Conservative group at County Hall, to BBC Radio Norfolk last April.

It was sent two days before West Norfolk Council leader Nick Daubney was to appear on Nick Conrad’s show to discuss the King’s Lynn incinerator, long a source of tension between West Norfolk and Norfolk County Council.

It suggested it might “be pertinent information” for the broadcaster to know that the borough council leader was facing “a serious leadership challenge” and that his authority had failed to procure alternative technology to the plant.

When the email came to light it sparked an independent investigation at County Hall, which concluded last summer that Mr Vaughan had acted on the wishes of leader Mr Murphy.

Mr Vaughan later resigned as the political assistant to the Conservative group and seven complainants – John Martin, Ron Cornell, Jenny Perryman, Joy Franklin, Christine Hall, Mark Russell and Stuart Wilkie – have alleged Mr Murphy had failed to treat both Mr Daubney and Mr Vaughan with respect and that he had brought his office or the authority into disrepute.

Barrister Jenni Richards, QC, was appointed by the county council to compile a report and concluded she believed Mr Murphy did have a case to answer, which led to the scheduling of a standards hearing.

The county council yesterday confirmed that hearing will take place on Friday, February 1.

Mr Murphy insists his departure is only temporary and that he will be cleared by the standards committee. He is confident the Conservative group, of which he remains chairman, will vote to return him to his position following the hearing.

See today’s EDP and Norwich Evening News for the full story.