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

Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy announces he will step down temporarily to focus on clearing his name

Thursday, January 10, 2013
9.43 AM

The leader of Norfolk County Council has announced he is temporarily stepping down so he can concentrate on clearing his name at a standards hearing.

Derrick Murphy, the leader of the Conservative-controlled council is to be brought before his own council’s standards committee over his role in the sending of an email which appeared to undermine a fellow Tory council leader.

And Mr Murphy, after consulting his own group, today decided to step down as leader until after the standards hearing. While a date for that hearing has yet to be fixed, it is expected to be within a matter of weeks.

Mr Murphy, in a statement sent to county councillors, said: “I am writing to inform you that it is my intention to step down as leader of the county council until the standards committee hearing takes place into complaints against me which were highlighted in the Eastern Daily Press on January 8. The hearing is likely to take place within weeks but has yet to be finalised.

“As you may imagine my preparation for the standards committee hearing is taking a considerable amount of my time and attention at a time in the year when as leader I should be focused on working with my cabinet to prepare for the 2013 Budget. “It is my hope and expectation that I will clear my name and return to the position as leader, but in the meantime, I am standing down as leader of the county council with immediate effect, for what I regards as a temporary period of absence.”

Deputy leader Bill Borrett will be acting leader until such time as a new leader is appointed by council.

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

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

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

Mr Vaughan subsequently 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 that 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 after those complaints and concluded she believed Mr Murphy did have a case to answer, which led to the scheduling of a standards hearing.

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