A CULTURE of secrecy exists at Cotswold District Council, with the Tory cabinet gagging the rest of the council membership whenever matters arise involving the Cotswold Water Park, it has been claimed this week.

Cllr Juliet Layton (Lib Dem, Water Park) submitted a written question about the Water Park to a meeting of the cabinet last Thursday but says parts of her question were disallowed so her remaining question made no sense.

She further claims that council members have been prevented from raising questions about the death of teenager Kajil Devi at the Country Park and Beach in 2010.

After being told by council leader Lynden Stowe (Con, Campden-Vale) that a written response to her question would be provided in five days, in a supplementary question Cllr Layton accused the administration of operating under a culture of secrecy.

She said: "His [Cllr Stowe] administration appears to have introduced a form of council super-injunction that fetters the ability of elected members to talk about matters of public interest."

Cllr Layton asked Cllr Stowe if he would undertake to immediately dismantle this: "don't ask - don't tell system under which his cabinet operates."

She was told that her supplementary question would also be answered in writing within five days.

Follwing the meeting, a cabinet spokesman said it was completely inappropriate to suggest that the cabinet was working under a culture of secrecy.

"The provisions relating to member (and public) questions are set out in the council's constitution, a public document that is available on our website," the spokesman said.

"If a formal question is submitted at least five working days prior to the meeting, then a written response will be guaranteed at the meeting (although we do try to provide answers at least the day before the meeting if at all possible).

"If the person who asked the question is then present at the meeting, he or she is able to ask a supplementary question - however, the constitution clearly states that an immediate response cannot be guaranteed to a supplementary question.

"In practice, if a supplementary question is straight-forward and requires a response containing material that is factual and known to the cabinet member or chairman, then a response is quite often given 'there and then'.

"However, on many occasions, supplementary questions are more complex and require further research and/or clarification.

"The key thing is to ensure that responses are accurate and comprehensive."

Cllr Joe Harris (Lib Dem, Cirencester-Park) said members felt fobbed off by the answers given by cabinet.

"It’s like they’ve decided to shut up shop and not give public responses," he said. "The whole attitude is wrong."