SENIOR councillors have remained coy over releasing details around the closeness of the Conservative leadership vote.

An official statement from the Tory office claims Councillor Lynne Hillan held on to her position after beating Councillor Mark Shooter with a “decisive majority”.

It was initially unclear how strong the majority was, but a source close to the count, which came after a secret ballot at Hendon Town Hall on Tuesday, claimed Cllr Hillan's victory was marginal, by no more than three votes.

The challenge had been brought after outcry by a large number of councillors who were opposed to plans to increase allowances for senior cabinet members and the leader.

Cllr Hillan has said she will reverse that decision at next week's meeting of full council, but Councillor Alison Moore, leader of the Barnet Labour group, said there are obvious divisions within the ruling administration.

She said: “It’s clear that Barnet’s Tory councillors are split and factionalised, and that’s just no way to run a borough.

“Cllr Hillan has been irreversibly damaged by this sorry episode and her leadership will always now be tainted by the appalling lack of judgement she showed over the allowances scandal.”

Speaking after the meeting, Hendon ward councillor, Mr Shooter, said he would now work with his party colleagues for the good of the borough.

He said: “I am happy to say that I will support unity and work with the group for the sake of the people of Barnet.

“Obviously I am disappointed after receiving tremendous support. I would like to thank my supporters but I accept the decision as being fully democratic.

“I will do my part to get behind the group and make sure the authority and the councillors do the best for the borough.”

He said he was “pleased” to have stood for the leadership and believes his move had a hand in overturning the decision to increase allowances.

He added: “I think I can be proud of what I achieved. I believe the leader has now listened and I hope we can go forward without similar decisions being taken in future.

“I don't see myself as a black sheep. I was a voice of a section of the group but I fully accept the decision so there is no reason for me to be considered a black sheep.

“I will remain extremely vocal of issues I feel need to be raised and represent my ward first and foremost.”

A statement from Cllr Hillan echoed the desire for a coherent council. She said: “I would like to thank my colleagues in the Conservative group for placing their confidence in me.

“We must now go forward as a united administration group to tackle the challenges that face this council and our residents in these tough economic times.”