A Birmingham city councillor who quit the Liberal Democrat Party believes he was forced out by racial discrimination.
Abdul Aziz said a decision to deselect him, effectively preventing him standing as the party's candidate in Aston at next year's council elections, was driven by a desire to maintain an all-white presence among members of the council cabinet and scrutiny committee chairmanships.
Coun Aziz (Ind Aston) said: "This is a novel policy to deal with equality and diversity.
"The policy is to get rid of Asian councillors from the Liberal Democrat group who can do the job of a cabinet member or be scrutiny committee chairmen and replace them with those who cannot."
His comments threatened to re-open a row about the failure of Asian councillors to gain positions of power among the Conservative-Liberal Demo-crat coalition running the council.
More than a quarter of the 32-strong Liberal Democrat group are from a black or minority ethnic background. The group's Asian membership put forward candidates for election to cabinet positions earlier this year, but none were elected.
All ten cabinet members and chairmen of the main scrutiny committees are white.
Coun Aziz's comments were rejected and condemned as "disgraceful" by Paul Tilsley, the Liberal group leader and deputy leader of the council.
In a heated exchange at yesterday's full council meet-ing, a visibly angry Coun
Tilsley said he had worked hard to get Coun Aziz elected in Aston, even delivering his election leaflets.
Coun Tilsley (Lib Dem Sheldon) added: "We encourage as many of our colleagues as possible to stand for positions within the city council."
He praised the performance of Aston Lib Dem councillor A youb Khan, who was appointed the council's lead member on the West Midlands Police Authority. "He is discharging his duties with the greatest ability and knowledge," Coun Tilsley added.
Coun Aziz hit back: "The preamble to the Lib Dem constitution says the Lib Dems exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society. They can't even create a fair group, how in the name of God do they claim that they can create a fair and free society?" Fresh elections for the Liberal Democrat group's four cabinet places will be held following a review of council departmental structures which is currently under way.
Coun Tilsley confirmed that cabinet portfolios would be changed to "more adequately reflect the management structure that we have in the city".