Cornwall County Council leader Alex Robertson has been ousted from his position after ongoing internal disputes over his plans to part-privatise key public sector services.

A motion to remove the cabinet leader was carried by 63 votes to 49.

In a shock move, ex-deputy leader Jim Currie was elected as the council's new leader today, following what turned out to be a rather short resignation from the authority last week.

Currie had sent a damning resignation letter to Robertson over his privatisation plans, claiming that he had 'pushed the cause of retaining Council control over join ventures as far as [he could] with the Cabinet' and that the financial risks involved with the 'rush' into strategic partnerships was 'unacceptable'.

Outsourcing of the council's services could go to either BT or CSC if the plans to go ahead in a deal that is worth up to £300 million a year.

Currie's email implied that Robertson would be unwilling to relinquish the privatisation plans whilst he was in power. He said: "I know you will never let go. I could not leave local government with billions of pounds of Cornish taxpayers' money at risk and on my conscience."

After Robertson was stripped of his role yesterday, the Council meeting adjourned for group meetings and then reconvened to consider nominations for a new leader. Jim Currie and Councillor Neil Burden were both nominated and after a recorded vote, Currie was declared the leader by 49 votes to 46.

Full council will meet again on Tuesday 23 October to debate the strategic partnership proposal.

Under the current proposals, either BT or CSC would be legally required to deliver at least £5 million of savings over the next two years and to create a minimum of 500 net new jobs in Cornwall.

New leader Jim Currie said today: "Now is the time to look forward and reinforce the democracy demonstrated by the members this afternoon.

"I'll be holding meetings over the coming days to determine who will make up the new Cabinet. All previous members of the Cabinet can congratulate themselves on a successful term in office."

He added: "The Council has had many successes but most of all it is solvent and in a position of strength from which we will go forward."

More than 4,400 viewers logged on to the council's website to watch the cabinet decide Robertson's fate.