A FORMER Poole councillor has accused the Mayor of "stifling democracy" by not allowing questions to be asked and answered at a meeting of Borough of Poole.

The long agenda contained 37 items, councillors had been in their seats more than four hours and 10 questions waited to be asked at the end, all from opposition party members.

Brian Clements, Liberal Democrat who lost his Newtown ward seat in the May election, said he was "shocked" to learn the mayor had refused to allow the questions and he said she had, brought the council and "the office of mayor into disrepute".

"I served for 30 years as a councillor and never witnessed such inappropriate behaviour from a Mayor," he said. "They are supposed to act impartially and not in a manner that gives preference to one political party. This action can only be seen as an attempt to further reduce the ability of all councillors to scrutinise the Tory administration and publicly to hold them to account.

"Ironically, this authoritarian attack on democracy came towards the end of a meeting when the majority had voted to scrap area committees without defining any suitable alternative means of engaging with the public."

Conservative mayor, Cllr Ann Stribley accused Mr Clements of making "ill-judged and inappropriate comments" while being unaware of the full facts.

"The council meeting on 15 December had a full agenda that included a number of items which were debated at some length," she said.

In accordance with Standing Orders at 11pm she asked members if they were willing to continue to conclude essential business. This was agreed and meeting continued until 11.20pm when everything except questions had been dealt with, she said.

“Members are aware that they can raise questions directly with portfolio holders at any time and do not have to wait days or weeks for the main council meeting. Such questions and answers can be made as public as any member might wish."

She said the 10 questions would have taken at least another hour to deal with.

"I felt these could be answered more effectively and efficiently in writing rather than further unreasonably extend an already over-long and detailed meeting. Finally I would point out that it was a previous administration in which Mr Clements played a leading part that put time constraints on our meetings.”