Council leader resigns following WhatsApp police investigation

Coun Barrie Grunewald has resigned as council leader following a police investigation into a possible data breach
Coun Barrie Grunewald has resigned as council leader following a police investigation into a possible data breach
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St Helens Council’s leader has resigned after a police probe was launched into a “possible data breach” into allegations of sharing information on WhatsApp.

Coun Barrie Grunewald has also been suspended from the Labour Party.

New council leader Derek Long

New council leader Derek Long

He said he had stepped down “temporarily”.

Coun Grunewald told the BBC the allegations were “spurious”.

“I have had letters and text messages to my phone, so I hope they can trace the individual and I urge the police to carry out their investigations quickly and will provide them with the letters and text messages that have been sent to me,” he said.

A Merseyside Police spokesman said inquiries were ongoing to “establish whether any criminal activities have taken place”.

It is understood the allegations are related to WhatsApp conversations involving several St Helens Labour politicians.

Last night, Derek Long was installed as the new council leader.

He takes up the role with immediate effect.

Coun Grunewald had battled back from ill-health to resume his role as council leader after suffering a massive heart attack while on holiday in 2016.

And last year he survived an attempted coup by several senior Labour figures on the council.

A Labour Party spokesman said: “Barrie Grunewald has stepped aside from his position as leader of St Helens Council to allow a police investigation to take place.”