DUDLEY Council’s chief executive Sarah Norman tried to gag a veteran councillor after he publicly raised fears about an outbreak of Hepatitis A in Lye - linked to concerns about possible human trafficking and modern day slavery.

The News understands Mrs Norman made the comments in an email to Cradley and Wollescote Labour councillor Tim Crumpton after he and fellow ward councillors informed members of the public at a community forum that there had been an outbreak of the viral infection, linked to Wollescote Primary School.

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

He made the shock revelation that he had been told he should have remained tight-lipped at Monday’s full council meeting where he confirmed "Public Health people" had informed him there were 25 to 26 people in one flat above a shop.

And he claimed he was later “virtually threatened” by a senior council officer who told him 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.

A leaked email confirms chief executive Sarah Norman told him he had breached confidentiality by highlighting the health issue to the wider public and she said in the message: “If breaches of confidentiality of this kind are repeated it is likely to result in a severe curtailing in our ability to provide you with confidential briefings in the future.”

Cllr Crumpton said: “I don’t believe I broke a confidence.”

He said he felt it was in the public interest to speak out and he told members of the council about the concerns raised at the latest Amblecote, Cradley and Wollescote, Lye and Stourbridge North Community Forum - about how people had become worried about the growing Roma community in Lye and the impact this was having on businesses and residents.

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 on Monday that neither the authority or police had any evidence of the claims but she stressed any worries raised would be treated with the utmost seriousness.

Cllr Crumpton claims he and his fellow ward councillors decided to go public with the concerns as he doesn’t “want another Telford in Dudley”.

Ms Norman, who has more than 30 years of public service experience under her belt and whose pay tops £165,000 a year, declined to acknowledge her comments and simply said: “An excellent working relationship between members and officers is key to our success and we pride ourselves on these relationships in Dudley.

"If there are specific concerns members have I would be happy to speak to them directly about it.”