An openly gay council leader in Aberdeen has been accused of abusing his authority to set up an LGBT staff network.

John Stewart, a Liberal Democrat, send a confidential email to hundreds of council staff saying that if interested, they should meet him and his civil partner in a nearby gay bar to discuss the idea.

Opposition Labour and Conservative councillors have accused him of having the wrong priorities, while some have said he was trying to address a personal agenda.

Tory councillor Jim Farquharson told the Press & Journal: “We have so many issues, so many problems, that to be focusing in on that looks much more like a personal agenda than anything relating to the council.

“I don’t talk about my lifestyle, it is not part of the council’s duties, and I thought it was an abuse of his power and authority.”

Labour spokesman Willie Young added: “I find it incredible that the leader of the council has time to explore setting up a LGBT staff group given the current state of the authority.”

The council is currently battling to make £60million of budget cuts.

Stewart admitted he had sent the email in work time and from his work email account but said the three-line message took just “seconds” to send.

He said that the network would cost the taxpayer nothing and added: “I really do not know why they [his opponents] are getting their knickers in a twist about this.

“Part of the programme is to have a network and all I am doing is trying to find out if we can facilitate that. Councillor Young is welcome but under no obligation to come along.”