IAN HUDSPETH, ejected from the Oxfordshire County Council cabinet last year following a leadership bid, has tonight won the vote to replace Keith Mitchell as head of the ruling Conservative group.

Mr Hudspeth has beaten David Robertson in a vote of Tory county councillors.

Mr Mitchell announced in November he was standing down as the leader of the county council next month after more than 10 years in power.

It is not known yet what the voting figures were from tonight's meeting of the Conservative group.

Mr Hudspeth's name will now be put forward as the new leader of the county council when all 74 county councillors next meet at the authority's Annual General Meeting on May 15, but that will be a formality given the Conservative's dominance.

Mr Hudspeth said: "I am obviously delighted with this result and will now look to the future. However Councillor Mitchell remains in office until May 15 when full council will consider me as the Conservative group's nomination to be the new leader.

"Councillor Mitchell has led the council with distinction for the last decade and out of respect for him and until the county council has made its final and formal decision on May 15 I will not be commenting further to any great degree."

“I am sure I speak for councillors and officers alike at the council in wishing to record immense gratitude to Keith Mitchell for his dedication and service to the county of Oxfordshire over the past decade. His excellent leadership ensures that Oxfordshire County Council remains one of the leading councils in the country in delivering real choice, low taxes and value for money.”

Mr Mitchell said: "The May 15 full council meeting will make the final decision. That is when my time as leader will officially end and my successor will take on the role.

"I wish my successor the all the very best in taking on the leadership of a council that provides 80 per cent of local government services in Oxfordshire including key functions such as highways, social care for adults and children, schools and education, fire and rescue and many more."

Mr Hudspeth had stood against Mr Mitchell last year for the leadership. He lost and then lost his place in the county cabinet.