UNDER-FIRE Sandwell Council have been accused of making a mockery of local democracy by holding a three day consultation on neighbourhood forums.

The council fully announced its plans online to cut the number of neighbourhood forums in half, from four a year to two, on Tuesday and gave respondents until Friday to give their views.

Sandwell Conservative stalwart Ray Nock slammed the consultation.

He said: "Labour's transparency is again hidden in the mud.

"A short three day assessment using an online survey which most forum users don't have access to, is in my opinion discriminating against the views of the old and poor of our borough and makes this survey a mockery."

He added: "They are just rail-roading these plans and are cutting out local residents completely."

Under the council's plans public meetings will be held every six months, instead of every three months, to update residents on priorities for their area and to listen to their feedback.

And ward councillors and neighbourhood officers, now based in all the borough's wards, will be the key points of contact on day-to-day concerns such as littering or parking.

Deputy leader Councillor Mahboob Hussain said: "We want to offer the best service we can to residents and we are always looking at ways to achieve this.

"We are committed to protecting frontline services at a time of deep budget cuts and our plans would give residents the chance to report an issue and get something done straightaway, rather than waiting three months for the next neighbourhood forum.

"They would also give everyone a chance to get quick action rather than just those who go to neighbourhood forums."

He added: "We have a new structure of neighbourhood offices and neighbourhood officers, who will be about and about on the streets to pick up local day-to-day concerns immediately.

"But we want to explain our case and listen to what people say before we take any firm decisions."

To comment on the proposals go to www.sandwell.gov.uk/news/article/2985/have_your_say_on_neighbourhoods_proposal.