Changes at the top of Surrey County Council after it became one of the worst rated councils in the country were the result of a huge Tory coup, according to a Conservative party source.

New leader Dr Andrew Povey has promised cultural change after the interim chief executive, brought in to turn around the one-star rated council, delivered a damning raft of criticisms of the authority.

He described an arrogant, inefficient organisation in denial about its fundamental problems, which led it to become one of the worst councils in the country.

Councillor Nick Skellett stood down after presiding on a sudden fall from a top rated four-star council in the wake of two highly critical reports into its adult social care and children’s social care team, although outgoing chief executive Michael Frater said problems inside the council were widespread.

A Conservative Party source said: “He [Mr Skellett] has not even got a place on the cabinet. They voted him out completely.”

Dr Andrew Povey denied there had been an internal coup, pointing to a proper leadership election when Mr Skellett, who was given a CBE last year, stood down, although he admitted there had been feelings that he should be replaced.

He said: “The previous leader basically said he didn’t want to continue. I put my hat into the ring and I happened to be the winner.

“I think people felt it was time for a change and the leader had sensed he wasn’t going to continue.”

Dr Povey was not on the previous executive, unlike some of the other councillors who put their name forward for the top job, and has promised a cultural change.

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