THE leader of Flintshire Council has stepped down from his post, citing the ‘intolerable’ pressure he has faced in the wake of sacking his deputy.

There has been growing unrest in the community after Cllr Aaron Shotton decided to dispose of his number two Cllr Bernie Attridge last week.

Cllr Shotton, who is the subject of an ongoing Ombudsman’s investigation into his conduct, said he would be leaving in light of “increasing and persistent” social media attention.

The Labour politician also signalled his intention to resign his job as cabinet member for finance in order to heal the increasing rifts among his party.

The news was revealed in a statement released by the local authority shortly before a protest was due to be held in both men’s home town of Connah’s Quay in support of Cllr Attridge.

Cllr Shotton said he was concerned for his own welfare and that of his family as the public gathering was set to take place directly near his house.

He said: “In the light of increasing and persistent social media attention, and the community reaction to the decision that I had to make, I have considered what is best for the council moving forward.

“I strongly feel that in order to heal the political divisions that have emerged in recent days, it is now necessary to step aside from the role of council leader and cabinet member for finance.

“The continued negative media attention is simply not fair on the loyal and dedicated workforce who deliver the very services the people of our county rely on.

“I have chosen to announce my decision today in advance of the community meeting that has been arranged for this evening on the very street where I live.”

He added: “The increasing pressure is intolerable.

“In the interests of the mental health and wellbeing of myself and my family, I have today informed the council of my resignation.

A special full council meeting has now been called at County Hall in Mold next Tuesday to choose his successor.

Cllr Attridge and Cllr Shotton have become embroiled in a war of words over the last week, with each offering conflicting reasons for the former’s dismissal.

The majority of the Labour group of county councillors accepted the council leader’s reasons for removing his deputy after he accused him of a ‘significant breach of confidence’.

The former cabinet member for housing denied those claims and said his departure was linked to him speaking up on behalf of a female member of council staff, who lost her job following an alleged affair with Cllr Shotton.

Those allegations are said to form the main part of the investigation being carried out by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales

But Cllr Shotton has rejected the suggestion and a statement issued by the authority confirmed it was not one of the grounds put forward.

Meanwhile, a leading councillor has issued a plea for calm among the two warring factions.

Cllr Carolyn Thomas, cabinet member for Streetscene and countryside, said: “I am extremely worried about the further hatred and aminosity that is being stirred up.

“It could cause a split and bring down the council which stops it functioning properly.

“The leader appoints the cabinet and they could no longer work together.

“It is tough running the council with all the cuts and high expectations.”

Her comments came just hours before Cllr Shotton’s decision was announced.

The single item of business for next week’s meeting will be the election of a leader to serve until the council’s AGM on May 7 when a permanent figurehead will be elected for the full year.