The "democratic process" at Hertsmere Borough Council is to be put under the spotlight at an extraordinary meeting of the council today (Wednesday).

A previous extraordinary meeting of the council – called to discuss the governance of council-owned businesses – came to a chaotic end earlier this month.

Council officers later took the unprecedented step of removing some of the comments from the webcast of the meeting.

Read more: Tempers flare at extraordinary council meeting

In the immediate aftermath of that meeting, Labour councillors submitted a request for another extraordinary meeting – to discuss ‘the democratic process at Hertsmere Borough Council’.

Leader of the opposition Labour group, Cllr Jeremy Newmark, says he hopes the meeting “will shine a spotlight on the increasing democratic deficit” at the council.

He says council meetings should be an opportunity for opposition members to scrutinise and to hold the executive to account.

But instead he suggests there has been a ‘salami slicing’, where procedures are being gradually manipulated to prevent that scrutiny from happening.

Over the past 18 months, he claims some meetings have been closed down early and that the number of questions from public and opposition councillors are now limited.

He claims that Labour councillors have, on occasions, been forced to submit FOI requests in order to have their questions answered.

He says an extraordinary council meeting, held two weeks ago, was the only way to have a report on the governance of council-owned companies discussed by the council.

However Conservative leader of the council, Cllr Morris Bright, says the planned meeting is “unnecessary” – wasting both officers’ time and council tax payers’ money.

He points to other mechanisms within the council – including the constitution and member development panel – where concerns can be addressed.

Cllr Bright says that 24 hours before the start of the extraordinary meeting the motion had still not been shared with the Conservative group – suggesting Labour weren’t serious about everyone having an input.

Responding to the concerns raised by Cllr Newmark, Cllr Bright said 30 minutes of each council meeting was set aside for public questions – and a further 30 minutes for councillors’ questions.

And he said that, on becoming leader of the council, it was he who had introduced public questions to the council.

He pointed to a backlog of council business and the need to ensure that the three-hours of each council meeting “really count”.

And he said meetings were not shut down early, but that they stopped at before 10.30pm – in recognition of long days worked by staff and to ensure best decision-making by councillors.

And he said: “You have to ask yourself what is the motive of people who say they want to have genuine open discussion and to hold the executive to account, if they are expecting people to hear for the first time – as the meeting starts – what the meeting is about.

“We will not commit to policy on the hoof at Hertsmere.”

Cllr Newmark says the planned extraordinary meeting was requested  by Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors immediately after the previous extraordinary council meeting, which discussed the governance of council owned companies.

“It was signed immediately at the conclusion of the meeting,” said Cllr Newmark.

“As it was shut down there were some extremely strong feelings that we needed to do something and the only action was  to requisition an additional extraordinary meeting.”

The request for the extraordinary meeting – dated September 4 – was signed by Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors, Cllr Jeremy Newmark, Cllr Andrew Melville, Clr Richard Butler, Cllr Kumail Jaffer, Clle Chris Myers, Cllr Paul Richards and Cllr Christian Gray.

Meanwhile, protesters will march through Borehamwood from 6pm tonight ahead of a full council meeting at 7.30pm. Hertsmere Labour has been heavily involved in the organisation of the march.