THE LEADER of Worcester City Council has shocked the authority by stepping down after four years in the post.

Coun Stephen Inman announced his decision yesterday afternoon only four days after spearheading a successful election campaign that saw the Conservatives retain control on the city council.

The move stunned colleagues, who saluted his hard work as leader.

Coun Inman said: "Worcester as a place is about to embark on a renaissance about which I have talked for so long and so often and I feel that someone else should see the change.

"I have had a very stimulating and enjoyable time as leader but I do not want to continue indefinitely and feel this is the right time to go."

He told the Worcester News that he broke the news to his Conservative Party on Saturday morning in a meeting.

"When I told them they were very supportive of my decision," he said. "In great difference to Tony Blair, I have decided to step down when the time is right.

"Four years is quite a reasonable amount of time to be leader. It's like a book - there are chapters, and Worcester is about to start a new one."

City council chief executive David Wareing paid tribute by saying he was a "great servant" to Worcester.

"Stephen has been a great servant to both the city and the council," he said.

"His first priority was to do what he thought best for the people of Worcester and I am sure he will continue to play an influential role even if he is no longer at the centre of decision making."

Labour leader Coun Adrian Gregson said: "Overall, I can't see a major style change happening - regardless of the leader, it's still a Tory council."

Coun Inman has been on the city council 11 years and is now the Tory nomination as Deputy Mayor.

He plans to carry on his duties until the council's annunal meeting on Tuesday, May 16 before formally resigning as leader.

The role will be filled by cabinet member for finance Coun Simon Geraghty, one of the younger members of the authority, aged 29, who was previously deputy leader.

Coun Geraghty's new position as leader will be ratified.