A HEATED meeting of the full Wirral Council heard leader Phil Davies deny accusations there was anything "underhand" in the appointment of his former policy adviser to a new role as the borough's investment chief.

Councillor Davies was responding to claims made during the specially-called meeting to discuss Martin Liptrot’s role as the authority’s investor development manager.

Mr Liptrot was appointed to the temporary post in February and is paid £350 per day.

The role had been given the go-ahead by the ruling Labour cabinet and immediately sparked a row as they voted to waive powers to "call-in" the newly-created job for further scrutiny.

Opposition councillors were incensed that they had been gagged from asking questions.

A group of 24 Conservatives and Liberal Democrats then united to request Monday’s meeting to air their views.

In a notice of motion they said: “At a time when budgets are under pressure the employment of such a well-paid and senior position requires clear explanation, justification and scrutiny - all of which have been denied by the manner of this appointment.

“Those at the top of the authority should lead by example and ensure all appointments are made - and are seen to be made - on merit.”

Conservative Ian Lewis led the bruising debate for the opposition and was eventually banned from mentioning Mr Liptrot by name as it was deemed to be unfair to a council officer and could cause upset to his family.

Councillor Lewis said: “I don’t believe in heckling and this is not about Martin Liptrot, it’s about the creation of a new post.

“My question to the council leader is, was the post created on the advice of the personal policy advisor himself - who was subsequently appointed to the post?”

Councillor Davies hit back: “The post was created by the chief executive and management team,because we were due to visit the MIPIM [property development and business networking] conference in France and needed to create a short-term appointment.

“Given the urgency of the post there was no time for a call-in, which is why we took the decision to waive it.

“Nothing was done in an underhand way, that’s absolute nonsense and an insult to the panel that created the post - and an insult to the integrity of the candidate.

“The appointment was fully above board.”

The notice of motion was put to the vote and defeated by 34 to 25 with one abstention. Six members were absent for various reasons.