THE region's fire chief has been sensationally de-selected by the Conservative Party and will quit politics at next year's elections, it has emerged.

Councillor Derek Prodger has been forced into an earlier than expected retirement after losing out in a selection battle for his Bedwardine seat at Worcestershire County Council.

The devastated 79-year-old, first elected 34 years ago, has been overlooked by Tory officials in favour of Councillor Alan Amos, who has been chosen for the 'ultra-safe' seat at the June 2017 elections.

Councillor Prodger, a former city mayor, yesterday called it "the end of an era" and told the Worcester News he was surprised and bitterly upset at the decision.

On Saturday a panel of more than 20 Conservative members sat on an interview panel to choose between Councillor Prodger, Councillor Amos and former Worcester City Council cabinet member Francis Lankester for the nomination.

A secret ballot then took place, with Councillor Amos handed the role in a surprise twist.

A shell shocked Councillor Prodger said: "I am very saddened and very disappointed - they've retired me.

"I've been very loyal, very hardworking and have always stood by the party. so it's quite a shock - it's the end of an era."

Some people who sat on the panel admitted it was a very tough decision, and paid their tribute to him.

Mary Drinkwater, a former councillor herself, said: "I've known Derek for 25, 30 years - politics is a difficult game.

"It's very unfortunate for him. But we didn't it on their positions, it was all about the presentations each one gave."

Councillor Alan Feeney, who also sat on the committee, said: "All I can say is what a fantastic councillor Derek has been."

Councillor Marc Bayliss did not go for the seat in the end, preferring to stay in his St Peter's division at County Hall despite representing Bedwardine at Worcester City Council.

He said: "I've enjoyed working with Derek as a fellow councillor in Bedwardine, and I understand his disappointment."

Some politicians from the Labour Party defended Councillor Prodger last night, including the party's group leader at Hereford & Worcester Fire Authority.

Councillor Richard Udall said he was shocked, calling it "a shame" that a "handful of people" had ended the veteran's career instead of having the public at large decide.

Councillor Prodger is also a former cabinet member for transport at Worcestershire County Council and started in public life back in 1982, sitting on Worcester City Council and the county council during his career.

He has been chairman of Hereford & Worcester Fire Authority since 2011.

He suffered a heart attack earlier this year but recovered, and wanted to do one final four-year term at County Hall before stepping down in 2021.

Councillor Amos currently represents Warndon at County Hall, where he was elected as a Labour politician in 2013 before quitting the party and later crossing sides after a controversial fall-out.

We revealed on Saturday how sitting Tory councillors faced fierce competition over their seats at County Hall, with very few expected to be unopposed.

Officials have asked councillors to choose up to three 'preferred seats' due to high levels of interest from party members.

The situation had been made more complicated by the desire of Councillor Amos to move from Warndon, a seat Labour is widely expected to triumph in.