A FARCICAL row over a cardboard cut-out of Ed Miliband is going on behind the scenes at County Hall - amid claims it's been "taken hostage".

Your Worcester News can reveal how Worcestershire County Council is embroiled in a stand-off over a life-sized cut-out of the Labour Party leader which has mysteriously vanished.

One year ago the Labour group bought it off the internet and located it inside the party's secure room inside County Hall.

Two weeks ago it disappeared, despite only a handful of staff and Labour councillors having access to the room.

Councillor Peter McDonald, who initially treated it as a joke, now says he wants it back and is threatening to involve the police unless the culprit owns up and returns it.

To make the situation even more bizarre, he says he's had a private meeting with Simon Mallinson, the council's legal chief, who said some staff found the cut-out "offensive" and that it should not be allowed on-site.

It is now being hidden at a mystery location and Cllr McDonald told him he was "not prepared to negotiate with hostage takers" over getting the cut-out back.

He said: "One day I went into the room and found the cut-out of Ed had been nicked.

"It sounds childish but I couldn't believe it, I found myself negotiating over a cardboard cut-out.

"I had a meeting with Simon Mallinson and he said he knew where it had gone, and that we could have it back 'under certain conditions', and that was that it must go in January.

"I told him I've got British blood in my veins and I'm not prepared to negotiate with hostage takers.

"Nobody has a right to tell us what we can and can't have in our own room, we aren't breaking any laws by having a life-sized Ed Miliband in there."

He said anyone who isn't a Labour councillor has now been banned from the room, and if he doesn't get the cut-out back he would be "taking it further with the police" after the festive period.

He was only half-joking over the police threat, but warns that he expects it back after the Christmas break.

The cut-out is the same height as the Labour leader, at 5ft 9 inches, and before it vanished some staff who had been using the Labour room for meetings have been turning it around so people walking past can only see his backside in the window.

The council has issued a statement over the saga but has refused to go into detail over the dispute.

It read: "We are aware that a life-sized picture has gone missing out of the Labour room within County Hall.

"Staff and elected members are working closely to ensure that it is returned and this situation is concluded."

A council spokesman emphasised that the officer's conversation with the councillor had been jocular, the officer had arranged the return of the cut-out which has subsequently gone missing again, and that he does not know where it now is.