WILTSHIRE Council leader Jane Scott has not visited Salisbury since the nerve agent attack last Sunday because she picked up a "rather unpleasant disease" while on a workign visit to South Africa, her deputy has said.

John Thomson, speaking for the council in the leader's absence, visited the Journal office today and said Baroness Scott was preparing a statement on the incident.

Cllr Thomson said he had been in the city "on a personal basis" during the week but the council had not been invited on the Home Secretary's official visit on Friday.

Explaining why no senior council leaders had visited the city in an official capacity since the attack, Cllr Thomson said: "It's an international crime situation and it's being controlled at the highest level.

"Counter-terrorism have been basically in charge and the overseer of that has been Cobra.

"We have been in a supporting role. This hasn't been our project."

But he said the council's most senior staff had been "all over the situation", working with other agencies behind the scenes.

And he said the council was leading the recovery plan for the city.

"When the criminal investigation and counter terrorism hand it back to the local level, we have already got in place a shadow recovery team," he said.

"They are looking at all the options we can to help Salisbury recover."

The council is in talks with the Bellwin scheme, which provides emergency funding to local authorities.

"Some businesses in the Maltings have been hit really hard, " he said.

Cllr Thomson said he would be in Salisbury on Thursday with corporate director Alistair Cunningham to give an update.

The next Wiltshire Council cabinet meeting will also be held in the city on March 27, he said.

There will be an update on the recovery plan and a question-and-answer session for Salisbury residents.

"Nothing is off the table," he added.

The council-led recovery team includes government, public health and police representatives.

Cllr Thomson said the council had attended the media briefing at Bourne Hill on Sunday but decided not to take part as the focus was on the public health warning.

"We thought the media would not be interested in recovery at that time," he added.

Cllr Thomson added: "This is a national crime and has massive implications.

"I don't think people realise the extreme level of security surrounding this investigation."

He confirmed the city's CCTV system was operational.

"It's on and [investigators] have had excellent pictures," he said.

A spokesman added: "We have been able to give the police everything they have wanted."

He said Baroness Scott had been visiting rural hospitals in the poorest areas of South Africa to support British doctors working there, a trip paid for out of her own pocket.

A soon as she is well enough, her first priority will be to visit Salisbury, he added.