The Tory leader of Lancashire County Council and his Cabinet walked out of a meeting after being challenged over proposals to introduce on-street parking charges in various towns including Burnley.
County Coun. Jeff Driver had been presented with petition from around the county containing thousands of names, opposed to the charges, when Labour accused him of trying to shut down debate over the issue.
The proposal to end free parking in Burnley, Padiham, Nelson, Colne and other towns around Lancashire had provoked a furious response from traders, residents and different political parties.
The county council's Webcam System, which is supposed to enable the public to view council meetings making them open and transparent to the public, was also shut down and all council live recording stopped.
Labour's Coun. Azhar Ali said: “This was an affront to democracy and a slap in the face of Lancashire people. Local people expect their councillors to be open and honest in their actions.
"Especially when it comes to these massive cuts in their services, running away from public debate will not help anyone.
“Every Lancashire Conservative councillor is fully responsible for the actions of its Cabinet today, along with the government who we have raised concerns with regarding bullying and intimidation be this Conservative administration. Now we have shutting down democracy. All this chaos, to cover up its farcical financial management.”
When Coun. Driver and his Cabinet returned and the meeting reconvened the group moved the £77m. of cuts without any further debate.
Coun. John Fillis, deputy leader of Lancashire Labour Group, said: "We were hoping to discuss the impact their cuts in these vital service would have on some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. As well as the increase in service cost covering car parking to elderly day care of up to 15%. This is on top of the 6% council tax increase with more increases in council tax to come.
“Instead we have this chaotic Conservative administration shutting down its own meeting to prevent constructive opposition and councillors supporting the people they represent. While blocking the Webcast to prevent the public seeing what they were doing.
“It would appear that all the £77m. proposed cuts will be going ahead on top of the £600 million cuts imposed by government. The Conservatives have now stepped outside of normal democratic practices. So it is uncertain how they will treat the public consultation, with today’s antics it can only be with contempt.”
A consultation will now be held over the proposed on-street parking charges.