A WAR of words has broken out over the nomination of former Labour council chief Steve Foulkes to become Wirral’s civic leader.

On Thursday, the ruling cabinet voted unanimously in favour of Cllr Foulkes to become the borough’s next deputy mayor, meaning he will become mayor 12 months later.

Labour leader Phil Davies says Cllr Foulkes will be an “excellent” mayor. But Wirral’s Conservative leader Jeff Green said he is surprised such a “divisive” figure has been chosen.

The nomination will be ratified tonight at a meeting of the full council, in whch Labour enjoys a significant majority.

The process normally receives all-party support - but it is unclear whether the Tory opposition will maintain this tradition.

Councillor Green said: “Who the Labour group put up as our first citizen is a matter for them.

“However, I am surprised they have chosen such a divisive figure.”

He declined to comment further until tonight's full council meets.

Council leader Phil Davies said: “I think it’s really churlish of Jeff to make that comment.

“Steve is a long-standing councillor and a member of this council for 22 years and has served his constituents in Claughton with great distinction.

“During that time he’s held a number of high offices which include deputy leader and council leader. He’s worked hard and has done a fantastic job.

“He’s an excellent public servant and I think he will be an excellent mayor.

“Normally, nominations for deputy mayor receive all-party suppport and I think it’s a shame Jeff wants to bring his negative views to the fore.

”Neverheless, I fully expect there will be full support for the nomination at council tonight."

Councillor Foulkes, who represents Claughton, lost his position as leader of the council last February after a vote of no confidence was passed by a coalition of Tory and Liberal Democrat councillors.

The coup came in the wake of a highly-critical investigation by consultant Anna Klonowski into failings of the local authority's adult social services department and its weak corporate governance.

He stood down as Labour group leader in March of last year citing long working hours and constant stress taking its toll on his family life, his career and his health as contributing to his decision.

Liberal Democrat councillor Dave Mitchell will succeed the borough’s current mayor Gerry Ellis in May.