The Independent elected mayor of Middlesbrough has denied wrongdoing after senior figures on the council stepped down and called on him to resign.
Andy Preston’s deputy and four senior Independent councillors on his executive wrote an open letter in which they made a series of allegations about his conduct and said they could no longer work for him.
They made claims about Mr Preston’s “poor behaviour” and said they have lost confidence in his leadership, causing them to resign en masse.
His deputy Antony High wrote on Facebook: “For the last 24 months I have worked tirelessly to address and turn around a number of critical areas of delivery for our Middlesbrough.
“However, I can no longer be associated with Andy Preston professionally or politically.”
But Mr Preston has hit back, saying the accusations were untrue, and he refused to stand down.
Mr Preston, a former hedge fund manager who was elected to the post in 2019, said in a statement: “Ultimately, if anyone believes I’ve done wrong, they should go through the appropriate channels and put in an official complaint to the council, rather than making defamatory public remarks.
“Whatever I do, it’s always about putting Middlesbrough and its people first.”
He added: “If the public aren’t happy with the job I’m doing, they’ll have an opportunity to vote me out at the election in two years’ time.
“Any attempt to force me to go before then is both undemocratic and insulting to those who voted for me or anyone else at the election.”
He claimed his opponents did not like his methods, saying: “Yet again, this is about those who don’t like the fact that I’m a very different mayor than any other.
“I do things differently, I challenge the status quo and I clearly upset a few people along the way who’d like things to stay just how they are.
“Clearly some people want me to resign.
“But I’ve got bad news for them.
In November, Mr Preston also refused to resign after an allegation was made that he had an image of a naked woman on his laptop and said he was the victim of a “dirty tricks” campaign.