THE controlling Conservative group at the shadow Dorset Council has agreed the new authority should consult with parish councils and voluntary groups and give committee seats to minority parties and independents.

It agreed an opposition party resolution on the issues while saying there was no need to do so because the points are already covered in the new council constitution.

But even with the resolution agreed almost unanimously it may have no effect. The new council, which comes into being in May, will then be free to make its own decisions.

Thursday evening’s debate in Dorchester was, at times, a tetchy affair, with insults hurled across the chamber. One councillor had to be warned about his language.

The meeting was attended by just over a hundred councillors, less than half of those entitled to do so.

Parish councillors from across the county accused the Conservative controlled shadow executive of not listening to them, of going back on promises to consult and trying to quash public debate.

There were also complaints about the three-minute limit to speak at public sessions and a 100-word limit for written questions.

“You are going out of your way to exclude the public,” said one parish councillor to applause from others.

Josephine Parish from Corfe Castle said the liaison the village parish council had enjoyed with the district council had been excellent and worried it would not be continued with the Dorset Council.

Opposition councillors said the Conservatives had promised consultation and seats on working groups making plans for the new council but had then been excluded – sometimes allowing Lib Dem councillors to attend meetings, but not allowing them to speak.

“Why would you not use all of the expertise which is available to you when facing a new challenge?” said the council’s only Labour councillor, Kate Wheller from Weymouth.

She said that according to the rules she had no rights to any committee place as a minority of one, but had been allowed to sit by the ‘grace and favour’ of some committee chairmen.

Former Dorset County Council leader Spencer Flower said there had been consultation with parishes and the constitution of the Dorset Council allowed for that to continue, as well as with voluntary groups: “It is enshrined in the constitution. There is a clear commitment to engage…I will be amazed if we do anything different to what we are already doing,” he said.

Fellow Cabinet member Peter Wharf said the evening’s resolution would not be binding on the new council: “But my plea for the new council is to involve town and parishes and volunteer bodies and to have a mechanism so that they feel they are being properly engaged,” he said.

Wimborne councillor Shane Bartlett had originally tabled a motion of no confidence in shadow council leader, Rebecca Knox, but had been persuaded to change it to one calling for more minority party representation on committees and better consultation with town and parish councils.

“One would hope that all political parties and groups are working together for the betterment of the residents we serve. To that end there needs to be a way of working in cross-party engagement – that cross-party working should be the constitutional norm,” he said.

He argued that engagement with town and parish councils should be “part of the DNA of the new organisation and should run as the golden thread through top level strategic plans…this would make sure that local communities and local councils are involved in partnership working.”

His original motion was amended by Cllr Knox and after an argument about what constituted a valid amendment, her motion was, in turn, then amended by Cllr Bartlett to include some of his original points.

The tactic of amending the original motion brought angry comments from minority councillors. Cllr David Rickard, from Bridport, said it was nothing more than a ‘spoiling tactic’ and should be thrown out.

Cllr Ray Nowak was asked to tone his language down after telling the meeting: “This amendment disrespects other political groups. It is disgusting that you should be so arrogant.”