The search for a council chief overseeing a budget of more than £700 million has been narrowed down to four.
More than 20 people applied to become the next chief executive of Brighton and Hove City Council.
Sources have confirmed to The Argus a shortlist including a quartet of women has been drawn up by private recruitment specialists to succeed John Barradell in the top job.
However, The Argus understands there was a political split in deciding which names to include on the final list. Last night the local authority said it would not be drawn on speculation and refused to confirm any names on the shortlist.
A statement said: “The recommended shortlist of candidates was agreed by the interview panel.”
But when asked if the selection of the full shortlist was unanimous, Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald said: “No”. He declined to make any further comment.
Labour group leader Gill Mitchell said: “The statement from the council press office is not only misleading, it’s untrue.
“There was no unanimity in the selection of shortlisted candidates.”
It is understood the disagreement was whether or not to include Lewes District Council chief executive Jenny Rowlands, who was the local authority’s former director of environment, on the final selection.
The Green administration’s three members had the casting vote on the panel of six.
Mark Turner, of GMB union, said: “None of these candidates seems to have experience or the expertise of knowing the political make-up of the city or bringing three separate political parties to the table.”
He added: “Of the names I have been made aware of, we have extreme concerns of some of the individuals as in their current roles they have led programmes which has seen services partly or fully packaged out to the private sector.
“The public should be very aware that we have already seen a service in this city put out to the private sector recently and that had to be brought back in house.”
The final interviews will take place on October 3 in the Brighton Centre in front of a panel of three Green councillors, two Conservatives and one Labour member, with the council leader having the casting vote.
A council spokeswoman said: “Following the interviews the recommended candidate for the post of chief executive will be subject to full council agreement on October 25.”
Penelope Thompson, former chief executive of Hackney Borough Council and current CEO of General Social Care Council
Gill Steward, corporate director for communities, Cornwall County Council
Lyn Carpenter, bi-borough executive director for environment, leisure and residents’ services, Hammersmith & Fulham and Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
Nicola Yates, former chief executive, Hull City Council