A senior Birmingham City Councillor has apologised to colleagues after calling a rival a ‘t**t’ during an email exchange.

Matt Bennett, the Conservative head of Birmingham’s children’s services, attacked Labour councillor Tony Kennedy in a row over the council’s road contractor Amey.

He wrote: “You really are a complete t**t, aren’t you?” after Coun Kennedy had complained that Amey would not send officials to evening community meetings over safety fears.

The exchange was copied in to all 120 city councillors, an Amey highways official and senior council officers and provoked a swift response and demand for an apology from Labour’s Cath Grundy, to which he replied: “I sincerely apologise to any woman who was offended by my comment.

"To compare Coun Kennedy to any part of a woman’s anatomy is insulting to women and that was not my intention.”

The Tory, who was given the job of turning round Birmingham’s struggling children’s social care department last May, later said: “I have apologised for offending anyone else by using that word, but I stand by the comment that Coun Kennedy was being stupid and offensive.

“He reacted in a high-handed and pompous way to a council contractor who was trying to safeguard her staff in response to a specific incident.”

Coun Kennedy said that when he was first elected 18 years ago ‘politics tended to be more civilised’.

He added: “I have never spoken to Coun Bennett since I returned to the council a few months ago. This has not been a great introduction from the young man.

“I trust that one of the senior members of the Tory group will have a word and tell him to grow up.”

Coun Kennedy said that he is concerned that Amey, which last year won the £2.7 billion 25-year contract to maintain Birmingham’s roads, would not send staff to evening ward committee meetings.

He added: “We cannot give up the streets to criminals or fear. As councillors we have encountered these problems and worked around them.”

In the email he explained: “We cannot allow ourselves to be cowed by any incident however serious, there can be no compromise in carrying out public duties and there can be no ‘no-go’ areas.”

Amey said that their staff would not attend the evening meetings unless specifically requested, and then they would not travel alone. A member of staff had been attacked last year after leaving a meeting the company explained.

Conservative group deputy leader Robert Alden described the row as an over-reaction as the company had pledged to cover essential meeting and it was a waste of resources sending staff to non-essential meetings.

“We should try to work with our staff rather than insult them for not wanting to walk alone in the dark.”