Health secretary Frank Dobson came under fire last week for not putting enough Labour councillors onto trust boards.

The claim was made in a private session of the Labour local government conference in Scarborough.

Delegates complained that nominations they had forwarded had been rejected.

Mr Dobson retorted that, with 1,076 appointments to make, he had invited every MP and every council to submit nominations.

'I also said I wasn't going to get rid of Tory deadheads and replace them with Labour deadheads,' he said.

At the end of the process, half of the members he had chosen would be women. 'Not many councils can say that,' Mr Dobson said.

The number of black and Asian board members would be 9 per cent, 'a massive improvement', he said. A full analysis of trust appointments is due to be published in March.

Mr Dobson told the conference his renewed invitation to nominate for health authority and trust boards has produced a 'good proportion' of both women and ethnic minorities.

He said boards were already becoming 'a lot more representative of local people'.

He said MPs and councils had nominated 1,800 people to fill 1,076 places 'so quite a few were going to be rejected. There has been a huge shift and that will continue'.

See News Focus, pages 14-16.