COUNTY council leader Geoff Driver has been accused of acting like a ‘dictator’ after refusing to take questions from backbench councillors at a meeting.

He made the ruling at the authority’s ruling cabinet on Thursday and accused some of his opponents of turning the meeting into a ‘circus’ to make party political points.

Conservative Cllr Driver got officers to turn off the microphone being used by Liberal Democrat leader Cllr David Whipp to protest at the move and suspended the debate.

The Pendle Rural representative walked out and said afterwards: “Cllr Driver is systematically dismantling the scaffolding of democracy at Lancashire County Council. His actions are akin to those of a tin-pot dictator manipulating meetings for their own ends.”

He added: “He’s creating a one party state at County Hall worthy of North Korea."

He was backed by the leader of the Labour opposition, Nelson East’s Cllr Azhar Ali who said: “This action was an affront to democracy. 

“Councillors had come to cabinet to ask questions about decisions being made that will impact on their residents. To remove that ability is just fundamentally anti-democratic. This is an act of a dictator.”

Both leaders have complained to officers about the decision on Thursday and Cllr Driver’s related ruling that in future only questions submitted in advance will be answered either orally or in writing.

Under previous administrations backbenchers have had the opportunity to raise issues with the cabinet in person by asking the relevant members questions.

Cllr Whipp had posted on Facebook seven questions he wish to ask at Thursday’s cabinet including library changes and safety issues on roads in Pendle.

Cllr Driver said: “I was not being a dictator. Cabinet is the main business meeting of the county council and some councillors were turning it into a chaotic circus by abusing the system by making party political points to put on social media.

“The correct place to make those points is full council not cabinet. This is about making the system run effectively and we take more items in public at cabinet than the last Labour/Lib Dem administration did. Cllr Whipp, and other councillors, are grandstanding to put items on social media.”