A power struggle following the death of a councillor could leave taxpayers with a bill for tens of thousands of pounds, the leader of a split council has claimed.
Rival political groups on Tendring DC are accusing each other of attempting to seize control before a by-election takes place following the death of a Conservative councillor in July.
The death left the ruling Conservative group with 29 members and the opposition Tendring First group with 30.
Tendring First leader David Lines (Independent) demanded an emergency meeting, claiming the Conservatives had tried to tempt one of their members away with a seat on cabinet.
Mr Lines said he had planned to seek a vote of no confidence at the meeting so Tendring First could reinstate policies it had drawn up which the Conservatives did not want to pursue.
But council leader Neil Stock (Conservative) said his group had not made the first move over the vacant cabinet place.
He said he had challenged all 60 Tendring councillors to resign their seats, triggering mass by-elections, so the electorate could have its say on the council’s composition.
He said: “We’ve just lost a much-loved colleague who was the heartbeat of our group.
“Frankly, we’re quite disgusted by the behaviour of Tendring First and David Lines.”
And he said the opposition were “scared of facing the electorate” and had demanded the emergency meeting in advance of the by-election to “exploit the temporary advantage they have”.
Cllr Stock said the legal advice, which recommended that an emergency meeting was not necessary in advance of the by election, had been a “complete and utter waste of money” and the cost would be “possibly tens of thousands of pounds”.
Cllr Lines claimed his group had been prepared to hold off campaigning as a mark of respect, until they found out the Conservatives were “working away feverishly”.
He said: “We accept the moral issue, but death is part of life – it happens at the best and worst of times.
“We acknowledge the timing’s not the best, but I’m sure if the boot was on the other foot it would have been the same.”