A COUNCIL meeting at which politicians were banned from saying anything political has been described as a “farce” by opposition councillors.

Restrictions were placed on councillors at Wednesday night’s meeting, which took place three weeks before voters hit the polls, to stop them from “electioneering”.

Frustrations peaked at Cllr Jane Black’s last meeting as mayor when she asked her deputy to “be quiet” after breaking protocol by challenging her.

One senior Conservative said he might as well have gone home to watch the football.

Cllr Roy Walker said: “I was intending to say something political in the next two or three hours but the statement by the borough solicitor seems to suggest that none of us can make any political statement during this meeting.”

Tory leader James Daly objected to the pre-election period rules, known as purdah, being used to “restrict” debate.

Deputy mayor, Cllr Dorothy Gunther told the mayor: “I think you should listen,” to which Cllr Black replied: “Could you please be quiet deputy mayor? I will not be told how to conduct this meeting."

It came as the Conservatives' proposals to scrap Greater Manchester’s controversial housing plans, which would see thousands of homes built on the green belt, were thrown out.

READ MORE: Bury green belt protesters confront mayor Andy Burnham

The borough solicitor later advised that motions submitted by all parties should be withdrawn from last night’s meeting, to prevent council resources being used to “promote political agendas”.

Cllr Daly said: “For many years I believe our council has suffered due to a culture of secrecy within the organisation which has led to numerous problems. I sincerely hope that all of us within Bury Council reflect on this shambles and we never find ourselves in this position again.

“If councillors had been allowed to debate and vote on the Conservative Motion we may well have been in a position to take those steps necessary to protect large areas of green belt currently under threat of development. It is hard to see how our local democracy was best served by the decision to restrict the ability of councillors to do their job and act in a way to potentially benefit the people they serve.”

The borough solicitor also took issue with the content of the motion calling on the leader to scrap the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) for which a consultation period has just ended.

However, councillors were allowed to ask questions about the controversial housing plans, as were members of the public, as long as the answers were factual.

Among those asking questions from the public gallery were Labour candidates Richard Gold and Sam Turner.

READ MORE: How Bury's political landscape could change next month

One Conservative councillor asked whether the move to “strike off” the Conservative motion came from the council leader himself.

Cllr Rishi Shori said: “The decision rests with the council solicitor whose judgment we should respect and who we should treat with respect.”

Bury Times:

The council leader told the Bury Times that the restrictions were difficult for all sides involved.

He said: “It was obviously a difficult meeting given that the purdah restrictions stopped any councillors making any political comments. But we are bound by council rules which is why there will be no further meetings taking place during this period from the next municipal year onwards.”

Lib Dem leader Tim Pickstone added: “The public expect their councillors to consider difficult issues and for their elected representatives to stand up for the people they represent.

“What happened for this meeting, where a motion from one party was ruled out of order and other parties were told to withdraw theirs was far from satisfactory.

“We’ve asked the council to review how motions work in the future to make sure this cannot happen again.”