THE leader of Worcestershire County Council has resigned over allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour towards female members of staff.

Five separate allegations have been made against Dr George Lord who 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.

The seriousness of the allegations is not yet known but the sudden resignation of 78-year-old Dr Lord, who represented the Alvechurch ward, on Saturday, has been met with shock and has left deputy leader Councillor Adrian Hardman in charge until a successor is appointed next week.

Your Worcester News was unable to contact Dr Lord for comment yesterday but Brian Fuller, chairman of Bromsgrove Conservatives, 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.”

Mr Fuller said Dr Lord has been suspended from any activity in the Conservative party awaiting findings.

The shocking news comes 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.

In an interview with your Worcester News yesterday Coun Hardman refused to confirm or deny the nature of the allegations but after repeated questioning said: “Thirty years ago this never would have seen the light of day.” He said while they had been taken very seriously they were “absolutely at the lower end” of the scale.

As a result he said he did not think the allegations would attract the attention of the police but added: “There’s nothing to stop any of the complainants doing that.”

Coun Hardman said the allegations do not relate to a single event but a series of incidents which “seemed to coalesce during the course of last week”.

He said more allegations might yet be made and those would also be investigated.

Coun Hardman said complainants had one-to-one interviews with a human resouces professional after which he, along with chief executive Trish Haines and head of legal and democratic services Simon Mallinson, spoke to Dr Lord for more than an hour on Saturday.

Coun Hardman said Dr Lord refuted the allegations but decided to resign “for the well-being and continuing function of the council”.

Coun Hardman said Dr Lord, who was due to stand down from Bromsgrove District Council in May and the county council at its next elections in 2013, had lost everything.

“He is absolutely devastated, of course, and very shocked,” said Coun Hardman. As for the complainants, Coun Hardman said: “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.”

He said a review of the whistleblowing policy will now be undertaken to see if any lessons can be learned.

Calls are being made for Dr Lord to be brought before the standards board but that might not happen following his resignation.

Coun Hardman said even if it did go that far the highest level of punishment he could receive would to be suspended for standing for public office for five years.

“In effect he’s taken the harshest penalty that he could,” said Coun Hardman. “He’s lost everything.”

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.