A COUNCILLOR has called for auditors to investigate his local district council - in a row prompted by a leaking tap.

Durham county councillor John Shuttleworth has written to Minister of State for Local Government Nick Raynsford about Wear Valley District Council.

In his letter, he criticised housing repairs, saying the service was "in a mess," and accusing the planning department of being "inconsistent".

Coun Shuttleworth, who also represents Stanhope on the district council, said he decided to write the letter after the council closed the public toilets in Wearhead.

He said: "I received a letter informing me that the toilets were closed for the foreseeable future because they could not get the parts to repair a tap.

"This is ridiculous. Why don't they just replace the tap? I have heard it will only cost them £12, plus fitting, but instead they have closed the toilets.''

In his letter, he called on the minister to urgently send in a Comprehensive Performance Assessment team to investigate Wear Valley council.

But Dennis Nattress, head of business support at the council, said Coun Shuttleworth's accusations were unfair.

He said: "We were told that the tap was leaking two days before the Christmas break and, rather than leave water flooding, we closed the toilets until the plumber could get the available parts."

He said it was not just the tap that needed replacing, but a full unit that would cost between £300 and £400, and that the council was doing its utmost to get the toilets re-opened as soon as possible.

Mr Nattress said auditors would be looking at the council's housing repairs in March and admitted that the council had received a bad report last year.

He said: "Much improvement has taken place since then. Things cannot change overnight but we have already made changes.''

Mr Nattress added that the planning department was consistent and worked to the local plan.