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Cheshire East Council leader Michael Jones quits over physio deal

Michael Jones Image copyright Cheshire East Council
Image caption Michael Jones had been urged to quit by his Conservative colleague, the mayor of Cheshire East

A council leader has resigned over contracts awarded to his personal physiotherapist's firm.

Cheshire East Council leader Michael Jones stepped down following pressure over contracts given to Core Fit Ltd, which totalled £156,000.

The council waived its own financial rules when granting deals to the firm.

Mr Jones cited "infighting", adding "nothing in Core Fit concerns me", following the announcement at a Conservative group meeting earlier.

He has also denied separate claims about bullying.

An official announcement about Mr Jones's resignation is expected on Wednesday, the BBC understands.

'Misled' councillors

Confirming his exit, Mr Jones said in a statement: "I am not willing to sanction a blue-on-blue attack. Residents and my party must and should come first.

"Nothing in Core Fit concerns me and certainly no claims on bullying anywhere... as such I will not want a divided party.

"The residents are all I strive for and I am pleased to leave a far better council today than the one I inherited."

During a cabinet meeting earlier, Mr Jones said he would not be answering any questions relating to Core Fit Ltd, which is owned by his personal physiotherapist Amanda Morris.

The firm runs fitness classes in schools and the council waived its financial rules when it granted three contracts.

Last week, Cheshire East Mayor Hilda Gaddum spoke to the BBC saying Mr Jones's position was "untenable" because of his "lobbying on behalf" of the firm.

'No unlawful expenditure'

She said Mr Jones had "misled" councillors at a meeting in October and demanded an independent inquiry.

Emails released following a Freedom of Information request prove Mr Jones helped Ms Morris write a positive assessment of how Core Fit Ltd had fulfilled one of the council's contracts.

Three Cheshire MPs - Edward Timpson, David Rutley and Antoinette Sandbach - have told the BBC they are waiting to see how the council's governance and audit committee responds when it meets on Thursday.

Previously, the council said there had been no "unlawful expenditure or any breach of EU procurement rules".

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