A TEAM of business leaders backed by some politicians are mounting a bid to force a council leader to quit.

They hope to collect 10,000 signatures on a petition calling for fresh blood at the helm of Taunton Deane Borough Council.

The group behind the initiative, launched in Taunton centre on Monday, say they are frustrated at what they see as the town's stagnation caused by a lack of vision at the top of the council.

They are calling for Conservative leader Cllr John Williams to stand aside as the merger of TDBC and West Somerset Council to form the Somerset West and Taunton Council looms.

They believe rising up and removing the council leadership will help restore civic pride in "our great and historic town".

The petition says: "Over the past ten years or more, too many of us have watched in despair as Taunton has lost its way and stood motionless under the leadership of the present council.

"Meanwhile, towns like Bridgwater and Frome and nearby cities like Exeter have advanced and developed - their communities becoming more prosperous.

"And yet we all live in a town which offers so much hope and opportunity for the future. It just needs to be unlocked."

SEE THE PETITION: Calls for council leader to go

It lists Taunton's attributes as easy access; outstanding health and educational facilities; magical countryside; major attractions such as Somerset County Cricket Club, the Museum of Somerset and Hestercombe; the redevelopment of the world-class UK Hydrographic Office; and "the sheer talent, energy and creativity of the people of Taunton".

But the petition adds: "Taunton's dilemma is that this great energy and dynamic output fails to resonate down the corridors of council - not even at a time when our new status as a garden town should be the springboard for Taunton's regeneration.

"This new status should be inspiring the council's leadership to transform the town into a place of national significance.

"Many of us are working hard to build a better Taunton, a county town worthy of the title.

"But we are blocked by a leadership lacking in wit and ambition, the guts and go and the charisma to grasp a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something truly fabulous for the town."

With the town poised for regeneration around the centre, the petition's backers believe it offers a chance to transform Taunton into "a major regional destination for tourism and the arts", including a "flexible convention/entertainment complex", and "a major hub for growth industries and digital sciences, environmental impact and artificial intelligence".

Cllr Williams said: "It is perplexing as to why this petition has been launched at this time, in May of this year elections are taking place for the new Somerset West and Taunton Council and the electorate will decide the future make up of that Council. The newly elected Councillors will decide on their Leader. Therefore this action seems motivated by personal, commercial and political reasons, not for the good of the new Council.

"Far from a lack of vision, our administration has been working extremely hard in delivering key projects including on Firepool our proposed Multi Purpose Convention Centre , the planned Digital Innovation centre, the important boulevard linking rail station to the town centre and not least in excess of 200 homes on brown field land.

"These can be progressed once planning consent is granted. In conjunction with this is the very welcome refurbishment of the Great Western Hotel and the major upgrade of Taunton Railway Station both of which have been supported by the Council.

"Others are the Nexus 25 Business Park at Junction 25 with associated upgrade of J25, Tangier Way, Trenchard Way, change of car park payments to pay on exit, vehicle messaging to guide motorists to available parking and plans for Town Centre improvements projects.

"There are numerous other projects including saving and supporting the Brewhouse in their ambitious plans, working with the Cricket Club as a pre-eminent attraction, funding the Park and Ride to avoid certain closure. Garden Town status is also a key opportunity for the future which we have fully embraced and are exploiting the opportunities that this will bring us.

"We can be proud of what our administration has delivered for Taunton Deane, we have steered the authority through some of the most testing times in its history. We experienced the steepest economic recession in living memory with radical cuts in our funding, around 60% since 2012, despite this we have still managed to protect virtually all front line services for our community.

"We have also invested in the future with a major upgrade of Station Road swimming pool and construction of a brand new pool at Blackbrook. Despite the recession we have also set aside £16.6m of funds from New Homes Bonus specifically for improving our infrastructure, major redevelopment plans including improved flood protection for the town.

"While others talk about it we just get on with it, planning and investing for the future."