A SENIOR Tory today told one of his councillors to quit amid fears he would vote against him in a leadership fight.

Blackburn with Darwen Council's Conservative leader Colin Rigby and the party whip Coun Alan Cottam go head to head on Saturday in a vote for control of the local party.

Today Coun Rigby called for colleague Coun Graham Pound to resign from the council after he quit the town to live and work in Manchester, claiming he was letting local people down.

But it has also emerged that Coun Pound has been urged to stay on so he could vote for Coun Cottam.

Despite sending out an e-mail to colleagues claiming that he had had little to do with his Corporation Park ward in Blackburn for a year, and admitting he had missed a lot of meetings, Coun Pound today insisted he would stay on as a councillor. Coun Rigby said: "I have been to see Graham in Manchester to ask him to do the honourable thing and stand down.

"He is letting people down and I would rather have a by-election now and give the new councillor the chance to get working in the ward and stand a better chance of being re-elected at next year's all-out elections.

"Instead, he seems to have stayed on to take part in the vote on the leadership.

"That is a free vote and is part of politics."

Today Coun Pound said the e-mail was "irrelevant" and things had changed since he wrote it on March 3.

In it, he said he felt he could not justify receiving "£350 a month of taxpayers' money" but had been persuaded to stay on by former mayor John Williams "because Alan Cottam needs my vote to become leader."

Coun Cottam said: "I have spoken to Graham and told him he needs to get his act together.

"I am standing against Colin for the leadership but I have not been canvassing votes. If people back me, they back me. If they don't, then fair enough."

Fellow Corporation Park Conservative Paul McGurty added: "I think it is now time for Graham to do the decent thing and resign as a councillor. It is very unfair to offer a second-rate service to people who have taken the trouble to elect you to office."

Coun Pound said: "Things have changed since I wrote that e-mail. Although I accept I have let people down and missed meetings and not done as much as I could have done, I still think I can do the job as councillor, despite the fact I live and work in Manchester. I plan to go to Uni in Manchester in the autumn so probably won't be eligible to stand next time,."

When asked who he would be voting for on Saturday, he said: "That's a private matter."

Today, Coun Williams said: "His support for Alan is important but it is incidental, more than anything."

An emergency meeting of the Conservative group was held on Tuesday to try to find out who revealed the e-mail to the Evening Telegraph. It was called by Coun Williams.

Coun Cottam said: "Leaks aren't on. We need to be able to trust each other."