THERE’S anger over a Dorset Council decision not to let Crossways councillor Nick Ireland ask two questions at this week’s cabinet meeting.

Cllr Ireland is currently the Liberal Democrat candidate for the South Dorset parliamentary seat and leader of the party group on the council.

Both of his questions were ruled out of order because of the election period.

One was about the future for the county’s children’s services following the departure of its director and the other about the future of a former naval accommodation block on Portland, which Cllr Ireland wants to see developed after lying as an empty shell for ten years.

The council claimed both questions were ‘political’ and would not be allowed under its interpretation of the rules councillors are supposed to abide by in an election period.

But Cllr Ireland and parents who have been campaigning for improved rights for children with disabilities say the questions should have been allowed as they are about council administrative matters, not about the election.

Barry Tempest, of Romulus Close, Dorchester says the council appears to be denying the proper accountability it should subject itself to. He says that parents with children who have special educational needs want to know if the reforms started by departed director Sarah Parker would continue: “Her proposals were not welcomed by everyone, though they were seen as a major breakthrough by parents of SEN children who have long tired of battering their brains against an unresponsive system. Many parents have lost trust in almost all the institutions with which they have to deal, and Sarah Parker had started to restore faith.

“Subsequent to this, We understand that a question has been ruled out for the council meeting on the basis that to pursue it would contravene the political purdah surrounding the election. It is hard to see how a local administrative matter can have significant national party political ramifications. If that were so, then any announcement of Ms Parker’s leaving would have necessarily been deferred until after next Thursday. It looks very obviously as if there is somewhere an embarrassment for the council, and a fundamentally anti-democratic attempt to deny proper accountability,” said Mr Tempest.

The stand is backed by other members of the SEND parents group, including those who attended Tuesday’s cabinet to hear the question, only to discover it was not put.

Cllr Ireland said that he had been told because his question mentioned an officer it had been ruled out – despite the fact that Ms Parker’s name had only been mention in the preamble and the question was to ask how the council will be responding to the issues facing child services. He declined to comment any further other than to say he would ask his questions again, altering one, if necessary.

The council officer who recommended the questions be ruled out said: “It is one thing for the council to continue with its work during the general election campaign. It is quite another thing during purdah for a councillor who is also a parliamentary candidate to use the council’s formal procedures to put down written questions. requiring written responses from other councillors. This is why I have advised the Leader not to take and respond to your questions at cabinet.

“Your second question does relate to the personal affairs of an officer by referring to her resignation. For the portfolio holder to be able to respond fully to your question he would need to take the question as a whole and that would include responding to your preamble about the director.

“If you were to resubmit your questions after purdah and without the reference to the Director in question 2 then I would advise the leader that these were valid questions to be answered at that time.”