A council leader has been urged to resign after acting like a “tinpot dictator” in silencing a member who objected to setting the lowest care home fees in Wales.

Denbighshire County Council supremo Cllr Jason McLellan hit the mute button to prevent Cllr Bobby Feeley being heard when she criticised the authority’s lack of “care, compassion and realism”.

Cllr Feeley, a former lead member of social services, was unhappy that the council had not consulted properly with care providers over the 8.8% increase in stark contract to neighbouring Conwy where rates have gone up by between 18% and 20%.

It means that there is now a gap of more than £9,000 a year between what Denbighshire and Conwy pay for nursing care for an elderly person with dementia.

The decision has also led to harsh criticism from sector champions Care Forum Wales (CFW) who represent around 500 social care providers.

According to CFW chair Mario Kreft MBE it was “utterly disgraceful” that Cllr Feeley had been silenced by the council leader at the meeting where the rock bottom fees were decided.

Mr Kreft said Cllr McLellan had behaved like a bully and that he should now consider is position which was now “untenable”.

He added: “Cllr Feeley was asking serious and legitimate questions when the Leader pressed the mute button to ensure that she could not be heard.

“She was quite rightly criticising the level of consultation ahead of the totally inadequate 8.8% increase in fees which has been immediately wiped out by inflation and the cost of living crisis.

“According to Cllr Feeley, the council should have done more to engage with Care Forum Wales along with individual providers and she was understandably unhappy there had been no meaningful dialogue with us.

“The pretence that the council has properly consulted social care providers in Denbighshire is a total sham and the reason they don’t want to listen is that they are in denial about the true cost of providing care.

“Cllr McLellan is acting like a tinpot totalitarian dictator in muting anybody who deigns to question this unjust regime in Denbighshire.

“It amounts to bullying and abuse of his position. Cllr Feeley knows what she is talking about because she was for a number of years the knowledgeable and well respected lead member for social services. What Cllr McLellan doesn’t like is hearing the truth.

“Democracy is about accountability and there is clearly no accountability in Denbighshire who shamefully have the lowest fees in the whole of Wales.

“Citing the 3.8% settlement from the Welsh Government as an excuse just won’t wash I’m afraid.

“They only have took across the Foryd Bridge in Rhyl which links Denbighshire with the neighbouring county of Conwy where they have taken a completely different and much fairer approach.

“Despite having a lower increase of around 2% in overall funding from the Welsh Government, Conwy Council have agreed considerably higher increases for care home fees of between 18% and 20%.

“After years of campaigning by Care Forum Wales, Conwy chose to use the toolkit by leading healthcare economists Laing and Buisson to calculate their much more realistic rates.

“It was fair and transparent and the complete opposite of what’s happened in Denbighshire.

“The upshot is that Denbighshire will be paying £9,224 a year less per person than in Conwy for providing exactly the same level of nursing care to residents.

“It is beyond belief that Cllr McLellan and Cllr Ellen Heaton, the Cabinet member for health and social care, should attempt to justify the absurd situation where an elderly person with dementia in Rhyl should be deemed be worth £9,000 less than elderly person just across the Foryd Bridge in Kinmel Bay.

“All we want is fairness in line with the Welsh Government’s ‘Let’s agree to agree’ guidance.

“Instead, we’ve had a generation of injustice and it’s a generation where the institutional prejudice and discrimination against the private care sector and Denbighshire Council are the embodiment of this injustice.

“It all adds up to an outrageous stealth tax on decent, hard-pressed families who will inevitably have to fund the shortfall themselves.

“The councillors who voted for these irresponsibly low rates in Denbighshire should be ashamed of themselves.

“The real victims of the heartless democratic deficit in Denbighshire are the vulnerable, mainly elderly people with dementia and other health issues for whom we provide care.”