Cornwall Council has been asked to bankroll a "lavish" new sports stadium after the private-sector group behind the scheme admitted it had come up short of funds.
Cornwall Community Stadium Ltd said the beleaguered project to build a 10,000-seat venue – the so-called stadium for Cornwall – on the outskirts of Truro cannot proceed without public money.
The plans, which have attracted widespread popular support and sparked a petition signed by 16,000 sports fans, have also provoked a bitter row within the Conservative group, where it has been labelled a "glory" project, as well as exposing divisions between the leadership of the council and the members.
The former deputy of the Tory group, Scott Mann, resigned in February after a secret report revealed plans to fund the scheme contrary to the wish of councillors.
In March, the leader of the rebel Tory faction, Fiona Ferguson, forced council leader Alec Robertson to bring any further request for cash to the full council – though the constitution decrees that the final decision be taken by the cabinet.
Mr Mann yesterday said the business case had, as expected, failed to "stack up" but described council funding as "unacceptable".
He said a publicly-funded project would have to be "for Cornwall and not for the Cornish Pirates", who are close to promotion to rugby's top tier but cannot make the step up without a new home.
"The Conservative group has been opposed to funding this for some time but that has not been reflected further up the food chain," he added.
"(The stadium) is a good thing but now is not the right time to go out and do a lavish scheme when people are struggling.
"This is a decision which should be taken by the full council not devolved to 10 or 12 cabinet members and I would expect (any decision) to be taken on, higher up."
Opposition Liberal Democrat leader Jeremy Rowe said he expected a "lengthy and unpleasant" debate at County Hall on Tuesday.
Mr Rowe added: "When the cuts are biting like they are now and the council cannot even collect people's rubbish properly, it seems the wrong time to support a stadium which many say is not in the right place. If this was going to be successful we would have private sector developers falling over themselves."
The request by the consortium comes just days after the biggest housing project the authority has considered – a "stadium village" of some 1,500 homes – narrowly and controversially won planning approval. It was first revealed in an email to the Tory group by cabinet member Steve Double on Wednesday.
Chief Executive Kevin Lavery told the BBC yesterday that the council had the required £10million in reserve.
In a statement, the council said a report detailing the request will be publicly available later this week after it has been circulated to members.