Politicians in Kingston have reacted to former Kingston Council leader Derek Osbourne's arrest on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children.

The 59-year-old ex-Liberal Democrat leader was arrested on Tuesday morning at his home in New Malden and taken to a south London police station before being bailed until August.

He was suspended by his party during an emergency meeting held that same evening in Guildhall, before resigning as leader, party member and councillor the following morning in an answerphone message to the group office.

As news spread quickly of his departure, politicians in Kingston responded in a mixture of surprise and disbelief.

Edward Davey, Liberal Democrat MP for Kingston and Surbiton, said: “I am shocked and appalled by this news.

“It is right that the group immediately suspended him and that he has now resigned.

“Now the police investigation must be completed and the council needs to choose a fresh leadership.”

Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, who represents Richmond Park which includes north Kingston, said: “This is really profoundly shocking news.

“The police will have to be given space to investigate this thoroughly, and it’s right of course that a new leader is being sought.”

Kingston Council Conservative group leader Howard Jones said the news was especially damaging in the light of the council's ongoing attempts to turn around its child safeguarding reputation following last year's "inadequate" Ofsted inspection.

Coun Jones said: "This has come as a tremendous shock after the recent scandal surrounding the children’s safeguarding issue.

"A person who has been entrusted for years by the people of Kingston, and the Liberal Democrat party he led, with the most important community leadership role has had to quite rightly step down while this serious and very nasty allegation is investigated by the police."

Meanwhile, the borough's Labour group called for acting council leader Liz Green to publicly announce a timetable to find a permanent replacement for Mr Osbourne.

Coun Green was only recently appointed new lead member for children and young people, a situation Labour dubbed unsustainable.

In a statement, the Labour group said: "We do not consider that the combination of this role with that of leader of the council to be sustainable for anything but the shortest period of time possible.

"Kingston Council is still pursuing improvements to children’s services following our poor showing in last year’s Ofsted inspection - these sad events cannot be allowed to create a vacuum of leadership in our borough."

Acting leader, Councillor Liz Green, responded by saying a new permanent leader would hopefully be appointed within two weeks.

Coun Green said: "We want to make a decision swiftly, but not hastily.

"We are working on a timetable as quickly as we can, but we also have to follow our own processes to ensure any appointment we make is sustainable.

"We hope it will be within a couple of weeks.

She added: “The leader should not be the same person as the lead member for children and young people.

“They both hold statutory responsibilities and it has been set up that way for a very good reason.”