A VETERAN Tory councillor claims his leader offered colleagues senior positions to scupper his bid to challenge her for the leadership.

Bill Sharp claims Castle Point Council leader Pam Challis increased the size of her cabinet from eight to ten to scupper his leadership ambitions.

He believes he had enough support to win last May’s contest until Mrs Challis created new cabinet posts, which he said kept people on side.

Mrs Challis vehemently denies the cabinet increase was connected to the leadership vote and said she had been planning to expand it before Mr Sharp’s challenge, but without announcing it to her group.

Mr Sharp spoke out after an official complaint he lodged with the council against its chief executive David Marchant over the cabinet increase was dismissed.

Southend Standard:

Pam Challis

Mr Sharp said: “Before the vote, I had enough support to win by one vote. In the end I lost by 14 votes to 11. Enough people had assured me they would vote for me to win. There was no discussion about the size of the cabinet increasing within the group and it was all done very last minute. We only heard about it after my challenge.”

Backbenchers Bill Dick and Peter Burch were appointed to the increased cabinet, which otherwise remains unchanged.

Mr Sharp said councillors were interviewed by Mrs Challis about possible positions on an expanded cabinet just before the leadership vote, despite the council constitution limiting it to eight at the time.

He said: “They then changed the constitution after the event at the annual council meeting on May 15 to allow a cabinet of ten.

“It is my belief councillors were offered cabinet places if they voted against me.”

Mrs Challis said: “Increasing the cabinet was something we were considering before the local elections because some of the portfolios had too many responsibilities.

It is wrong to suggest it was for any other reason.”