A ROW has broken out over the number of questions opposition councillors are allowed to ask Southampton City Council.

Up until now, the amount of questions that can be asked to the executive have been unlimited.

But under new plans to reduce officer's time, questions will be limited to ten per council meeting.

The new rule, which was voted in on Wednesday has sparked a row with Conservative councillor, Peter Baillie calling it an "assault on democracy".

He said: “Only around one question per councillor per year will be allowed.

“A very bad day and their excuse appears to be that Southampton is too democratic so we need to reduce it.”

A report written by the council’s legal director Richard Ivory says allowing councillors to ask as many questions as they like without thinking about the legal implications could lead to confusion.

The report reads: “For officers there is a significant resource allocated to this aspect of council business in the week leading up to council."

The same report goes on to talk about the current system and how it is ‘torturous’, ’causes tension’ and leads to the councillors asking the questions to come to subjective judgements in situations where their questions can’t be answered.

The questions will also not be "first come, first served" as they have been up until now and will be divided pro rata depending on the political proportionality of the 51 member seats.

This means with the current make-up of the council, Labour will now have 70 per cent of the question opportunities.

Councillor Satvir Kaur, the leader of the council said: “There is agreement (between the administration and the opposition) on limiting the number of questions to ten.

“What we have had in the past is when there have been lots of questions and other questions haven’t been answered because we run out of time.

“The other agreement was that it should be proportional to all opposition groups so it’s right and fair.

“If you’re a smaller group or an independent, you shouldn’t miss out on getting the answer to your questions and being part of the process.”

However, according to Cllr Baillie, with the change, that one Green will only get to ask ‘one question a year’.

The report adds: “The current Council Questions ‘escalation’ criteria and process was adopted by members in 2019 but from experience since that time it has proven rather tortuous and causes tension when questions are adjudicated upon by the Lord Mayor and Director of Governance, Legal and HR and subsequently ruled out.

“Judgements are made, most of which are subjective, and members and officers have on numerous occasions interpreted matters differently.

“The general consensus is that despite revisions to the process it still does not meet everyone’s needs and requires further revision.”