THE leader of Salisbury City Council has resigned, saying his role has had too much of an impact on his private life.

Councillor Matthew Dean officially announced his resignation last night, amid reports he is being threatened with legal action to recover £25,000 of allegedly unpaid rent on the pub he runs.

Cllr Dean, who has led the city's Conservative group for five years and been council leader since April 2017 said the role had been "incredibly time consuming" and that he had had "some real unpleasantness" towards him which he had found "quite difficult to cope with".

He added: "I’ve felt very much that I’ve lost any right to have a private life.

"I think I do want to be a bit more of a private citizen really, and a normal parish councillor."

Cllr Dean will remain as a Wiltshire Councillor and on the city council.

“I’ve been very proud to lead the council," he said.

“I’ve been the leader of the council for a very difficult time for the city with Novichok. We’re coming out of that now and I think it would be good for a fresh face to be brought on for the next steps.”

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It comes after he was told to pay £24,788 plus interest, or face being kicked out of the Duke of York Pub.

Solicitors gave Cllr Dean until last Monday to make a payment or respond to demands, but the deadline passed with no response.

Papers have now been served to escalate the matter to the county court to recover outstanding rent payments dating back to 2015.

When the Journal spoke to Councillor Dean he said there was no dispute and “no problems or issues” between him and his landlord, Amanda Newbery, adding: “Whoever has said that to you is making completely vexatious and untrue allegations.”

But later in the day he released a statement saying any debt was his “private business” and that he was in discussions with his landlord about the future of the business.

And he disputed the £25,000 figure, saying it was “significantly less than that”.

When questioned about whether the debt claim could affect his future as a city and county councillor, he said: "Yes, it could do if we don't reach an agreement in due course."

Ms Newbery confirmed she is in discussions with Cllr Dean about the pub’s future, but added: “I’m surprised that Matt is not in full knowledge of the figure that is under discussion.”

It comes as Cllr Dean faces investigation by Wiltshire Council’s standards committee after complaints regarding his comments made about the Travelling community in a cabinet meeting, and in controversial texts he later denied sending.

Kevin Daley, chairman of the Salisbury Conservative Association, said the association was "aware of the allegations surrounding Cllr Dean", adding: "We take all allegations of misconduct and anything that may bring the association and its members into disrepute very seriously."

He said a full investigation will be conducted before reporting to the group's executive council next year for any further action.

The city council’s Conservative group will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday night to select a new leader.

Wiltshire Council has been approached for comment.