THE leader of the Royal Borough has been forced to step down following allegations of bullying.

Cllr David Burbage received a vote of no confidence from cabinet members last week, just days before he announced he was stepping down from the role after nine years as leader.

This follows a complaint made by the council's managing director, Alison Alexander.

In a private meeting held at deputy leader Cllr Simon Dudley's home in Maidenhead last Wednesday, 12 cabinet members voted on a no confidence motion against Cllr Burbage. A significant majority of the Conservative councillors voted in favour of the no-confidence proposal.

A shocked Cllr Burbage told the Observer that he wholly denied the accusations.

He said: "I wasn't there at the time of the meeting when my colleagues discussed this.

"I was obviously disappointed given the situation, but I understand why some members felt as they did, given the circumstances.

"I refute absolutely a 'bullying' charge which is hurtful, has never been made before, and one I do not recognise."

Ms Alexander, who earns £129,000 a year, was only appointed as managing director of Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead Council (RBWM) last July.

In an email which has been seen by the Observer, council chief Ms Alexander outlined six reasons why she had submitted the complaint. She accused Cllr Burbage of using 'bullying behaviour' towards council employees. She said that this has been "demonstrated through [his] aggressive approach in meeting to officers" and his "constant attacking of officers in leaders briefing".

She also described how Cllr Burbage had shown "unfair treatment of and disrespect for the wider workforce" and that his reputation and actions was restricting officers from being able to deliver partnership work with other councils.

Cllr Burbage's resignation was revealed last Friday evening in a statement posted on his blog. At the time he said he was giving other councillors the opportunity to lead the council.

Andre Walker, a former political advisor to the Conservative group at the Royal Borough between 2006 and 2010, said he was not surprised by the news.

He said: "Friday’s announcement that Cllr David Burbage was not going to stand as leader of the council in May was the culmination of weeks of tensions at the top of RBWM. I’m told the cabinet decided to recommend a change in leadership at a hastily-convened meeting last week.

"They say all political careers end in failure, in this case, Cllr Burbage was Conservative leader for 13 years, nine as Council leader and he was even given an MBE for services to local government. He must be fairly pleased with his innings, even if it ended before he had wanted."

Following the cabinet members' meeting, Cllr Dudley tried to squash the story. In a bid to deflect attention, the council deputy leader sent an email to the Conservative group, which said: "Can I ask that no-one comments at all to the press or curious opposition members etc etc. Let us please just let David's blog post do the eloquent talking."

Even the council seemed blissfully unaware of the real reasons behind Cllr Burbage's resignation. They even suggested there had been no complaint made.

A council spokeswoman said: "On Friday evening, the Leader of the council, Councillor David Burbage, notified his colleagues that he has decided to give someone else in the group the opportunity to succeed as the Council's leader. This will be effective from Annual Council in May.

"The council and the Conservative group are working together to ensure there is a smooth transition from one leader to another. We are both committed to providing the best services to our residents, and running an outstanding council for their benefit.

“There is no complaint and there has not been an emergency meeting of cabinet."

There will now be a battle for the leadership among the Conservative members, with a new leader being elected on May 9.