THE Labour leader of Caerphilly county borough council is to retire.

Councillor Harry Andrews MBE is to formally stand down as leader of the authority on May 8 to spend more time with his family and pursue personal interests.

His retirement ends a highly difficult tenure at the helm of the authority – with three senior officers including the chief executive facing criminal charges of misconduct.

His successor will be elected by councillors when they meet for their Labour group Annual General Meeting on May 6.

Cllr Andrews, who represents the ward of Gilfach, said: "I have decided to retire as Leader of Caerphilly council to spend more time with my family and pursue personal interests.

“I'm immensely proud of all we've achieved at this council - one of the best in Wales, despite recent difficulties.”

Cllr Andrews said the authority has protected front-line services in the face of UK Government cuts, and has invested £200 million to upgrade all 11,000 council homes by 2020.

He said: "I'm honoured to have led our council for the last two years, and in our last Labour-led administration of 2004-2008. I wish my successor as leader well, and they can count on my full support in future".

Caerphilly council deputy leader Keith Reynolds said: "This is a sad day for Caerphilly County Borough.

“Harry Andrews has been the outstanding public servant in Caerphilly since our council was created in 1996. Harry's strong leadership has seen our Council through good times and bad, and he leaves our Authority in a stronger, better-managed position than it was when we took office in 2012, thanks to him."

Caerphilly council deputy leader Gerald Jones said Harry has “made a uniquely distinguished contribution to the delivery of public services in our county borough” and would be a “hard act to follow".

Caerphilly council deputy mayor Cllr David Carter, added: "I've known Harry Andrews for 50 years and worked with him in the Labour movement and community for 40. His dedication to serving the people of Gilfach, of the Rhymney valley and of Caerphilly county borough is second-to-none.”

Three Caerphilly council executives appeared in Bristol Magistrates Court earlier this week charged with misconduct.

Michael Anthony O'Sullivan 55, of Merthyr Tydfil, Nigel Barnett 51, of Aberbargoed and Daniel Perkins 48, of Brynmawr, are each charged with misconduct in public office between June 1, 2012 and October, 10, 2012.

The case was sent to crown court and the three, who are charged with preventing proper scrutiny of the senior officer pay award, were granted bail until their next appearance in May.

UPDATE 5.10pm: Cllr Colin Mann, leader of the Plaid Cymru group on Caerphilly council, said: “I wish Harry and his family all the best for the future as he steps back from the frontline of local politics.

“Harry has been a stalwart for the Labour Party for decades and while we’ve had our disagreements, I’ve always found Harry to be very personable and approachable."

Caerphilly councillor, Plaid AM and former council leader Lindsay Whittle said: "As members of different political parties, Harry and I have had our disagreements but I would pay tribute to his length of service on the council and dedication to public service.”