A CALL for a political leader to apologise in a row over the controversial Cotswold Water Park backfired when he walked out of a meeting.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Cotswold District Council, left a meeting of the full council, just minutes before the apology call was made.

The row was sparked after a series of bitter allegations and counter-claims made between the Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups.

A motion by Tory Cllr Nick Parsons said: This council deplores the leader of the Liberal Democrat group in promoting and using inaccurate and misleading information/comments in the media in an attempt to secure political advantage.

" In doing so, he has not only damaged the reputation of the council, but has also engaged in the public vilification of experienced senior officers of the authority without substance.

"Such action borders on matters within the Members’ Code of Conduct and Protocol for Member/Officer relations, which may need investigation.

"However, we would urge that the member apologises for his action and comments, and refrains from such behaviour in future".

Cllr Parsons and fellow Tory Cllr Mark Tufnell, both said "the wind had been taken out of the sails" by the departure of Cllr Hodgkinson and his Lib Dem colleagues.

A written statement issued on behalf of the Lib Dem group chairman Cllr Esmond Jenkins after the meeting said: "For the past several months, some councillors have tried to stop us by various means including intimidation and the smearing of an individual in their workplace.

"The motion before the council today is just the latest example. It uniquely singles out one individual for a highly personal attack.

"The latest edition of the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard states in it editorial the announcement of an internal inquiry into the business dealings of councillors and the actions of officers in the Water Park.

"You can’t help but wonder that, if there had not been a flurry of articles in Private Eye, and rather more in the Wilts and Glos Standard, then would the inquiry have happened at all?"

After the meeting, Cllr Hodgkinson said he had left the meeting "because of the depths to which the ruling group had sunk".

"I am only doing my job. There is no need to apologise", he said.

Last week, the Standard reported that an investigation into the involvement of local officers and councillors with business deals at the Cotswold Water Park had been ordered by the boss of CDC.

David Neudegg, the chief executive of CDC, began a preliminary inquiry into how his councillors and officers became involved in any dealings with the Water Park.

The move was prompted by questions from the opposition Liberal Democrat group about business connections between Cotswold Media Ltd, run by council leader Lynden Stowe and the Cotswold Water Park Society.