RESIDENTS will be banned from asking questions at council committee meetings because of the “disarray” that has often broken out in the past.
Council chiefs in Lymington have been accused of “ostracising” the community after revealing they are imposing the strict new rules.
Campaigners will still be able to raise issues at the start of every meeting. But questions will only be allowed at sessions of the full council – and only if the queries have been submitted two days earlier.
Meetings of Lymington and Pennington Town Council and its committees have often been marred by blazing rows between members and people taking part in public participation periods.
But the new policy came under fire from members of the Liberal Democrat opposition group.
Ted Jearrad, who accused committee chairmen of behaving “appallingly” to members of the public, said: “It’s a horrendous compilation of rules and regulations. It would appear that the public are not wanted here. We are ostracising them and their enquiries.”
Cllr Brenda Vincent added: “Most people are very polite and only want an answer – although I don’t often hear any answers given.”
But the deputy mayor, Cllr Michael White, said members had endured a torrent of abuse from one of the residents who attended a recent meeting.
He added that another member of the public had made “rude and unpleasant” remarks about someone employed by the authority.
Cllr John Olliff-Cooper, chairman of the amenities committee, voiced similar views. He said: “A woman who came to speak at one of our meetings was so upset by the level of vitriol from other members of the public that she left.”
A report to councillors claimed the authority needed to introduce a more orderly way of conducting public participation sessions.
The report said the public could still address the council or its committees, but could only ask questions at meetings of the full council, which was the decision-making body.
It added that questions should be submitted to the town clerk, enabling the authority to prepare a “proper response”.
The mayor, Cllr Anna Rostand, said: “We welcome constructive contributions but we must have parameters. Things get a bit crazy from time to time.”