Angry councillors at Cornwall Council have stepped up efforts to dethrone its leader, Alec Robertson.

According to one councillor, disgruntled members have already obtained the 41 signatures needed to hold at vote of no confidence at an extraordinary meeting.

The meeting is scheduled for October 16 at 10am. It will be open to the public and the press.

The motion follows several weeks of upheaval at the council following a row over the potential privatisation of many of the authority’s services.

The ruling cabinet committee has approved plans to create a ‘strategic partnership’ with a private contractor, a move which it claims will safeguard jobs and save at least £5 million a year in costs.

A debate on the proposal was held at the last full meeting of the council, where members voted to put the plans on hold.

However, the cabinet has insisted it will press ahead with the sell-off, despite the majority voting against it.

The decision has caused outrage amongst opposition councillors, who have criticised the leadership’s ‘breathtaking arrogance’ over the issue.

If a majority support the no-confidence vote in three week’s time, it will see Mr Robertson lose his position, with a new leader having to be voted into the top post by the end of the day.

Councillor Alex Folkes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group, is one of the 41 councillors to sign the motion of no-confidence.

He said: “I was one of those who signed it because I am concerned about the anti-democratic nature of the administration recently.

“In particular, the decision by the Cabinet to press ahead with their privatisation scheme despite a vote by a majority of councillors against it.“If the leader and cabinet system is to work then those in charge have to listen to the will of the majority of councillors.

“The Liberal Democrats have taken a position of opposition at the council because we didn't win a majority at the last elections.

“There is quite a lot we don't agree with in what the council has done, but we accept their right to do it. But when the full council - all 123 councillors, representing the whole of Cornwall, debates an issue and comes down against the cabinet, we think that the cabinet should listen.

“The debate on 16th October is not a foregone conclusion. Even though I signed the petition, I want to give the Leader the chance to explain his actions and to say how he intends to lead in the future.

“I know that there are Conservatives (and many independents) who are also unsure about councillor Robertson's leadership and will think likewise.”

Mr Robertson said: “Personally it’s insulting, which isn’t pleasant. Politics is a murky business.

“Given the political makeup of the council it’s surprising that this hasn’t been tried earlier.

“Accusations of lack of democracy and arrogance are coming from the same people who imposed a unitary authority in Cornwall, against the will of 80 per cent and opposed fierce resistance from Conservatives and Independents alike.

“It’s hypocrisy of the highest order. What we’re trying to achieve is safeguarded jobs and services and the people who are working against that are aiming to achieve redundancies, with no alternatives offered.

“We know exactly who the people on that list are. There are all the usual suspects.

“Given the political make up of the council and the fact that although we offered a rainbow alliance at the outset of Cornwall Council, the opposition have been in destructive opposition ever since. This is a pre election tactic.

“Whether I get involved in the debate or not is something I’ll decide nearer the time.

“I’ve got a job to do and the more we can get the other side of the story out the better. It’s easier to get the attack side jibes in. It’s never that straight forward.”