TORIES have condemned the “undemocratic” decision to stop any new applications for speed limit reductions or parking schemes being submitted to Southend Council.

A row has broken out between deputy council leader, independent councillor Ron Woodley and Conservative opposition leader Tony Cox.

During a meeting last month, Mr Woodley announced the council would not be accepting any more resident requests for reductions in speed limits, parking restrictions or permits until a two-year backlog had been cleared. Examples include the introduction of a residents’ permit parking on Wells Avenue, Southend, and a reduction of double yellow lines on Wick Chase junction on Glynde Way, Southend.

But the decision came as a shock to opposition councillors.

Mr Cox attempted to raise it during a scrutiny meeting this week and hit back, accusing Mr Woodley of making an important announcement which was not regarded as an official item of business at the June meeting - and now opposition councillors are struggling to find a way to refer it to scrutiny meetings.

Mr Cox said: “There has been no democratic oversight of this decision. It was made behind closed doors, with nothing recorded and no formal decision taken. It is not democratic.”

He added: “Councillor Woodley has said that it is due to a backlog but this department will always run with a backlog, with new schemes sometimes superseding older ones.

“You will never have a blank sheet of paper.

“We expect that with a decision like this there should be debate.”

Mr Woodley has defended his decision, claiming the department responsible for the parking changes is under severe strain financially and facing staff shortages.

He said: “We need to work out how to relieve this situation. I can’t go on adding to something that is already in jeopardy.

“Our preliminary findings show that the Traffic Regulations Working Party passed 120 requests and no one thought about the timescale or the revenue implications.”

He added he did not want to continue giving residents “false comfort” by approving requests which can’t be implemented.

Last month a report revealed chronic under-staffing and bad management at the authority’s highways department had contributed to the problems within the sector.

Chris Richardson, chairman of the Tower Court Residents Association, who successfully had a permit scheme introduced last year, said that it took the council more than a year to implement it, but residents understood it would be a long process.

He said: “We were very pleased with the council, there was certainly no problems with delays.

“From the outset we expected it to take around a year because the council has to do a lot of pre-work surveys, checks, signage and in some instanced double yellow lines have to change. So there is a lot of stuff that has to be done by the council. We expected it to take time and we’ve been thrilled with it.”