A VETERAN councillor told a packed Dudley Council chamber he was "virtually threatened" by a senior council officer to keep quiet after publicly raising fears about an outbreak of Hepatitis A in Lye - linked to concerns about possible human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Cradley and Wollescote Labour councillor Tim Crumpton made the shock revelation at tonight’s full council meeting at Dudley Council House - two weeks after he and fellow ward councillors informed members of the public at a community forum that there had been an outbreak of the gastro-intestinal viral infection, linked to Wollescote Primary School.

Cllr Crumpton linked the outbreak, which results from unsanitary conditions, to claims that Public Health officials had discovered around 25 people living in a tiny flat with one toilet in Lye High Street.

He told the chamber he had been informed there were 25 to 26 people in one flat above a shop and that he’d been told this by "Public Health people”.

He said he did not identify the flat concerned - and he claimed he was told by a senior council officer that he should not have breached confidentiality and broadcast news of the outbreak and that because he had “it was highly unlikely” any confidential information would be shared with him again.

He said he was shocked to have the council officer ring him up and "virtually threaten" him and he added: “I find that disgraceful.”

He told fellow councillors about the concerns raised at the latest Amblecote, Cradley and Wollescote, Lye and Stourbridge North Community Forum - about how residents had become worried about the growing Roma community in Lye after reportedly being asked to give money and shoes, and about how 40 people were previously evicted from one property in the town.

Mattresses were being delivered "by the dozen" to furnish properties of multiple occupancy in Lye, he said, adding that he'd been told by one High Street restaurant owner that “what was happening in Lye was destroying his business”.

He said the atmosphere at the community forum, held at Withymoor Primary School on March 20, “was not at all racist” but borne out of concern for the Lye community and worries that people were being exploited and he told the chamber: “There’s a hell of a lot of community tension going on in that area.”

Councillor Laura Taylor, Dudley’s cabinet member for community safety, told the council chamber that neither the authority or police had any evidence of the claims being made which she branded “irresponsible scaremongering”.

But she stressed any such worries raised would be treated with the utmost seriousness and she added: “If there’s evidence - it’s fine and it’s vital that we look into."

Councillor Gaye Partridge said it wasn’t true that the issues and concerns had never been reported and Councillor Richard Body said he had tried to help a homeless man from Romania who did not speak English three years ago but was unable to get any assistance.

He added: “I had to let him go back into Lye and sleep rough. I did all I could three years ago and it got me absolutely nowhere."