THE leader of Worcestershire County Council has rejected calls to force Derek Prodger out of the region’s fire authority - saying he expects his party to support him this month.

Councillor Adrian Hardman has revealed he will not be accepting a plea from the Labour opposition to remove Cllr Prodger from his role after the Mark Yates’ back operation saga.

County Hall’s Labour group has sent the leader an open letter saying they will scrap plans for a motion of no confidence in Cllr Prodger going to a vote on Thursday, May 15 if he is removed from his position before then.

It was reported recently that Labour plan to ask all 56 politicians to vote at the next full council meeting, calling Mark Yates’ operation a “fiasco” which “brought the fire authority into disrepute”.

Mr Yates, the chief fire officer, was handed £3,000 towards having a private back operation from taxpayers’ funds after deciding not to wait 12 weeks on the NHS.

The letter to Cllr Hardman, from Labour group leader Councillor Peter McDonald says: “As you are no doubt aware the Labour Group is minded to call for a motion of no confidence in Derek Prodger as chairman of the fire authority.

“However, I feel it would be more appropriate for you to take action yourself by removing him from the fire authority, thus, stopping any dirty washing being aired in public and the necessity for a motion of confidence.”

Cllr Hardman said: “They can put down all the notices of motion they like, it’s nothing to do with me as Cllr Prodger was elected (as chairman) by members of Hereford and Worcester Fire & Rescue Authority way of dealing with this matter by letting the county council decide.

“I would be amazed if we didn’t support Derek Prodger.

"But I welcome the debate.

"When fire officers go on strike we’d expect the chief fire officer to go out and man a fire engine.”

Cllr Prodger says he’s done “nothing untoward” and is determined to carry on.

His stance means the motion is now almost certain to go to the vote of the entire council.

Mr Yates had private back surgery costing £5,090 back in October after deciding he was in too much pain to wait on the NHS.

He then claimed it on expenses, and 20 days after the operation was handed a contribution of £3,000 after four fire authority councillors, including Cllr Prodger as chairman, had a vote.

Mr Yates, who is paid £122,000, has now paid the money back.