WORRIED residents will have less chances to air their views in Sandwell after it emerged neighbourhood forums are being cut.

Sandwell Council has cancelled all forthcoming forums across Cradley Heath, Rowley, Oldbury and Blackheath and confirmed the system has ended.

The move comes five years after town committees were axed due to the popularity of the forums which were established in 2006.

Former Independent Langley councillor Mick Davies slammed the move.

He said: "This is no real shock as the ruling Labour elite like nothing better than stifling any sort of opposition whether it is by the bullying tactics within council or bureaucratic Stalinist control tactics.

"The decimation of the Council’s Scrutiny system a number of years ago ensured that any scrutiny of cabinet decisions and any internal opposition was nullified."

Councillor Darren Cooper, leader of Sandwell Council, said: "We are always looking at the ways to improve how we engage with local people and the local forums are no exceptions to the rule.

"The council is looking at new ways of delivering service locally in our neighbours and the council has appointed neighbourhood officers in each of the 24 wards, following a major restructure."

He added: "The objective of these changes is to ensure that the council engages proactively and directly with local people and their locally elected representatives.

"This will enable us to respond the needs of those neighbourhoods more effectively. This may mean that we will not need to have as many forums as we have had in the past."

Councillors, council officers, representatives of the police and other agencies attended the forums, which were held four times a year, to discuss with residents issues including anti-social behaviour and neighbourhood problems.

The forums were originally chaired by members of the public but in 2009 the council installed councillors as chairman.

Cllr Cooper added: "However no firm decisions have been made on the future of Neighbourhood Forums and we expect the new model will be ready in the autumn."