MAYOR Gordon Oliver has declined to comment on reports that he has asked sister authority, Devon County Council, to 'take them over'.
Cash strapped Torbay Council is struggling to implement massive cuts in its annual budget, with a reduction of £10million agreed for 2013/14 and fears of cuts of up to £27million over two years.
Bay MP Adrian Sanders said he believed Mr Oliver was 'like a drowning man, grappling for a lifeline'.
Conservative mayor Mr Oliver is thought to have asked county council leader John Hart to bail them out of trouble.
Mr Oliver, also a Tory, was criticised last year for pushing his idea for a single Devon 'super council', uniting all the districts, boroughs and city councils into one giant body.
He insists change is necessary to respond to increasing budget pressures, and said the county should follow Cornwall's example to increase efficiency and generate savings.
At a full council meeting at County Hall in Exeter, Mr Hart said: "Torbay has asked us to take them over."
Asked to explain the statement later, he said it 'wasn't perhaps the best choice of phrase I could have used'.
Mr Hart added: "We talked to Torbay last year about how we could work together and what services and functions we could share, but it was an election year in Devon and the time wasn't right.
"I am, however, clear it is vital all the public services in Devon work more closely together to save money as we all face making unprecedented reductions in services to balance our budgets.
"We are currently talking to Plymouth, Torbay, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall Police and Devon and Somerset Fire Service about how we can work more closely together."
Mr Sanders said he hadn't heard if Mr Oliver had asked Devon County Council to take Torbay over, but said sharing services would work in the authority's favour.
He said: "When Torbay wanted to become a unitary authority, there was a feeling that taking over every single service could lead to difficulties further down the track.
"It seems to be the incompetent decisions which have been taken under the mayoral system by both the previous and current mayors, are now leading the current mayor to seek ways of outsourcing the problem.
"I believe he is a desperate man, who is losing confidence right across the council and residential communities of the Bay and is now, like a drowning man, grappling for a lifeline."
Lib Dem leader Steve Darling said: "Huge challenges are facing local authorities in austerity, and it has been suggested nationally that deals will be done behind closed doors between authorities about quietly taking on chunks of services like children's, education and adults services. We need to be more honest and open about what's going on rather than trying to do deals behind closed doors."
Labour councillor Darren Cowell when asked about Torbay being taken over said: "The story may be stretching a point, but what a signal to send out to potential investors. We could have a debate about different ways of working with neighbouring authorities, public and community services and businesses, but that's a different debate."
Mr Oliver did not respond to a request for comment.
A full council meeting on October 17 has been cancelled.
A spokesman said: "This was an additional date in the schedule and was no longer required. This does not reflect a lack of activity or council business, it just means there are no Full Council decisions required at this time."
The debate from our Twitter homepage
MikeLister66: I wonder if @darrencowell or @TorbayLibDems or @mikemorey17 had any idea about this. Was it raised at full council? Looks like it was more the mayor rather than @Torbay_Council Act of a desperate man?
Patsindevon: If it was more the Mayor rather than Torbay Council Act then he should resign!
mikemorey17: Members dismay over Gordon Oliver's plea for Devon County Council to take over Torbay Council. Is he admitting to failure?
Not discussed at Council. Gordon a lone voice in the wilderness
darrencowell: Working together is one thing - surrendering is another. Mayor needs to explain what he said. If the Mayor is not up to the job and wants to sell out - he should resign now! I have no knowledge of this. Look at sharing services - yes, but we lost out under Devon
MikeLister66: the mayor seems hell bent on somehow abolishing his own post
darrencowell: Mayor's negative message doesn't help our economy - danger of putting investors off coming to Torbay New thinking - yes. Surrender - no!
mikeinsdevon: It's an admission that Torquay is bankrupt (again). More cruise ships and supermarkets are not the answer
BayonetmediaUK: The options should be independently costed and put to the electorate. @Torbay_Council is not his to give away If he's really offering up #Torbay to DCC it's an admission of failure and certainly a resignation matter.
StephenRDodd: @MikeLister66 see you've started quite a debate by calling on the Mayor to resign yesterday!
MikeLister66: a debate that needs to be had