A Lib Dem councillor has claimed Cornwall Council staff are "spying" on what councillors are saying about the authority's Conservative leader online, calling the move paranoid.

However the council has called the idea that they are spying "nonsensical".

Alex Folkes said that the council has confirmed to him that taxpayers cash is being spent monitoring what is being said online about Alec Robertson and that “one of the officers who has been given this task works in the Cabinet Office directly for the Leader”.

Mr Folkes said: “At a cabinet meeting a couple of months ago, Cllr Robertson read out a number of Twitter posts critical of his decision to be absent from a cabinet discussion on child safeguarding in favour of lobbying a local government magazine which had shortlisted Cornwall Council for an award. He then attempted to ban the use of twitter in meetings.

“The Council issued a statement saying that the tweets were "brought to the attention of the leader" so I asked who had done so. Finally - two months later and at 6pm on a Friday evening - the council has admitted that a relatively junior officer in the Cabinet Office was tasked with following what was being said about the leader.

Calling the monitoring an “increasing level of paranoia” and a “waste of taxpayers' money” he added: “This wasn't someone from the communications team who might be expected to keep an eye on what is said about the council as a whole, but someone whose usual job is as the cabinet's office manager - organising their diaries and managing their correspondence.

“At the same time, the Council is conducting a survey of members about whether they want a debate to discuss a possible ban on twitter and other social media during meetings. It seems that the desire to introduce censorship is still very real.

“What he shouldn't be doing is using council staff and seeking to censor what his political opponents are saying.”