A Tory council leader has resigned after being accused of ”inappropriate sexual behaviour” towards female staff – at the age of 78.
Dr George Lord stepped down as head of Worcestershire County Council after five separate allegations were made against him last week.
He refutes any wrongdoing but decided to resign ”for the well-being and continuing function of the council”.
Colleagues say the complaints are ”at the lower end of this scale” and ”would never have seen the light of day 30 years ago”.
His resignation has left deputy leader Councillor Adrian Hardman in charge until a successor is appointed next week.
Cllr Hardman said the allegations do not relate to a single event but a series of incidents during the course of last week.
He said: ”Thirty years ago this never would have seen the light of day. He is absolutely devastated, of course, and very shocked.
”In effect he’s taken the harshest penalty that he could. He’s lost everything.
”It is important to stress that throughout this process the members of staff concerned have received full HR and line management support including the offer of counselling.”
The complainants had one-to-one interviews with the human resources department last week after the allegations arose.
Council chiefs spoke to Dr Lord for more than an hour on Saturday and he decided to resign immediately and also step down from his role on
He is now likely to avoid an investigation by the Standards Board, which could suspend him from public office for five years.
It is not yet known if any of the complaints have been reported to police.
Cllr Hardman added: ”As is normal practice in these circumstances the individual against whom any allegations are being made is presented with the information when it is at an unsubstantiated stage.
”Dr Lord recognised the disruption this situation could cause to the work of the council and decided to resign from the council with immediate effect on Saturday November 6.”
Dr Lord, who represented Alvechurch ward, was due to stand down from Bromsgrove District Council in May and the county council at its next elections in 2013.
He has also stepped down from his Bromsgrove District Council duties while membership to other bodies, including the Worcestershire Partnership and Local Government Association, are now void.
Brian Fuller, chairman of Bromsgrove Conservatives, said Dr Lord had also been suspended from any activity in the Conservative Party pending the investigation.
He said: ”I understand that he has resigned from the county council and district council because some allegations have been made and the county council is conducting an investigation.
”I know the allegations are of a sexual nature. It’s not a political matter, it’s a personal matter, but no political party approves of harassment.”
The revelations come at a bad time for Worcestershire County Council, which is embarking on a mission to save more than #60 million, possibly more, by 2015 – a process that will cost more than 1,000 jobs.
West Midlands Conservatives spokesman Gareth Parry-Jones said the party was aware of Dr Lord’s resignation.
A leadership race is now underway with nominations closing on Friday. A new leader will be appointed at a council meeting on Thursday, November 18.
West Mercia Police confirmed it has not received any complaints about the behaviour of former Worcestershire County Council leader Dr George Lord.