JOHN Cotton has insisted he will remain as leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, despite having resigned from his position in the Conservative group.

Mr Cotton quit as leader of the party on the council yesterday after being threatened with a motion of no confidence by fellow councillors, the Oxford Mail has learned. 

It comes after the council's deputy leader Jane Murphy was sacked by Mr Cotton and replaced by John Walsh.

Sources within the party said Ms Murphy was unhappy about aspects of the South Oxfordshire local plan.

This has been spear-headed by Mr Cotton and contains several controversial schemes to build thousands of new homes in areas such as Culham and Chalgrove Airfield. 

An election for a new leader of the Conservative group will now take place with Mr Cotton remaining in position until one is chosen. 

In an email to councillors, seen by the Oxford Mail, Mr Cotton wrote: "It is clear that a large minority, possibly more, of the group want the chance to choose a new leader.

"On that basis, I have just informed David Dodds that I have resigned as leader of the Conservative Group so that such an election can take place.

"For the avoidance of doubt, I remain leader of the council and will continue to carry out those duties.

"For equal clarity, no-one should doubt my respect for our group rules that require the group leader to be nominated as leader of the council when that time comes."

When asked for comment, Mr Cotton said he hoped he would remain leader of the council 'for the foreseeable future'. 

He added: "These are internal issues and they are going to remain internal. 

"I hope they will be resolved shortly."

Spokesman for South Oxfordshire District Council Andy Roberts said: "We can confirm that Cllr John Cotton is currently the leader of South Oxfordshire District Council.  

"We can also confirm that Cllr John Walsh has been appointed as the new Deputy Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council and cabinet member for Finance."