ATTEMPTS by York’s city leaders to place tighter controls on what the public can say at council meetings have been blocked.

A report brought before City of York Council’s audit and governance committee at the request of leader Coun James Alexander and his deputy, Coun Tracey Simpson-Laing, this week recommended speakers should not criticise the authority’s officials, should avoid “party political” and “frivolous” points and should ensure anything they say is “factually correct”.

However, the committee ruled the report, written by assistant director for governance Andy Docherty, should be deferred ahead of a wider consultation on the council’s constitution, because it could restrict democracy.

Committee member Coun Nigel Ayre said the paper, originally due be discussed at last night’s full council meeting, was “an embarrassment” and questioned why it had ever been produced.

The committee agreed defamatory and discriminatory comments should be restricted, as should the disclosure of confidential information, but queried how “frivolous” and “factually correct” comments would be judged.

Committee chairwoman Labour councillor Ruth Potter, said: “A public participation scheme should enable the public to participate, not disable them – almost any decision in life is political.”

Fellow councillor Neil Barnes, who represents Labour in Hull Road, said the report was not his party’s policy and had not been discussed at its group meetings, but said: “We have a duty as councillors to listen to what people have to say.”

Coun Ayre said a rule preventing party political points being made was “nonsense”, saying: “Members of parties and trade unionists speak at council meetings – do we expect people to wear badges?

“We’re basically asking people to go away and do copious amounts of research before they’re allowed to speak to councillors. If somebody stops us in the street, we can’t ask them if what they want to say is factually correct. We have a duty to be accountable as elected members. Council officials are employed by the people of this city, and while we may not always like what people say, we have a duty to listen.”