Tories have denied they are preparing to fight a by-election in Hove.

Party activists distributed two sets of leaflets in the Goldsmid ward last week, days after rival parties called for the resignation of Tory councillor Paul Lainchbury who had missed a string of meetings.

A buzz of political interest has been created by the situation, which has the potential to tip the balance of power on Brighton and Hove City Council, where the loss of a single councillor would end the Conservatives' two year reign as majority party.

The Labour party has already selected a candidate who has begun working in the Goldsmid ward in anticipation of a by-election. The Green party are also understood to be selecting a representative this week.

Both leaflets distributed by the Tories featured pictures of a local Conservative action team member named Andrew Wealls, who the rival parties claim is being lined up to contest a by-election when Coun Lainchbury steps down.

Mary Mears, leader of the Brighton and Hove Conservative group, rejected those suggestions on Friday, saying that her party was not preparing for a by-election.

There are three council seats in the Goldsmid ward, located around St Ann's Well Garden, currently held by Coun Lainchbury, fellow Tory Ayas Fallon-Khan and Labour's Melanie Davis.

Both Labour and the Greens believe they have a good chance of winning a by-election.

Coun Lainchbury has faced calls to step down after it was revealed he had missed every sitting of the council's audit committee for a year and been a noteable absentee from community meetings.

Liz Telcs, the Labour by-election candidate, has already been trying to build support.

Ms Telcs said: "I have been working alongside the hard working community Coun Davis since last June and have met many people in the ward on the doorstep and at various events.

"I will be able to give the time and commitment to working for the people of Goldsmid ward."

It has been reported in Private Eye magazine that Coun Lainchbury, who stopped claiming his £11,200 a year council allowance in January, wants to step down but has been blocked by his party.

They hold 26 of the 54 seats on the council and have been able to form its controlling cabinet. They can pass most issues at votes by the narrowest margin with the additional support of Independent councillor Jayne Bennett.

If Coun Lainchbury stepped down and his seat went to a different party the membership of the cabinet would have to be altered. Labour currently hold 13 seats, the Green have 12 and the Lib Dems two.

Coun Mears said her party had not blocked any attempted resignation.

Coun Lainchbury did not return calls from The Argus.