SANDWELL council house will no longer be a ‘fortress’, the leader of the authority has said as she announced changes in security measures for public meetings.

Cllr Yvonne Davies, the borough’s senior politician, said the use of barriers and additional staff to prevent possible disorder had ‘got out of hand’.

Speaking about openness and transparency at the full council meeting she said security had gone too far.

“It has been to our discredit that we have turned this council house into a fortress, particularly on formal occasions such as council meetings.

“These had got completely out of hand with regard to any real or perceived threat.

“We would do well to remember that it is not our council house, it belongs to the people of Sandwell we only here by dint of the fact that they have elected us and have asked us to serve them.”

The council house in Oldbury has been the scene of several demonstrations and pickets in the past and in April the former leader of the council, Steve Eling, refused to attend a meeting citing fears for his safety.

In March, a report to the authority’s ethical standards and member development committee suggested using CCTV and panic alarms to help protect members.

It stated that only “a small minority” of councillors had reported incidents but added police had advised the use of the security measures when councillors held surgeries for voters in venues such as community centres and libraries often when no one else is present.

But speaking of the security for the council’s Oldbury headquarters,  cllr Davies said: “Of course we need to have regard to public order but as I’ve said I believe this has gone beyond all reason. 

“Members and the public will no doubt have noticed that, and hopefully appreciate, we once again have an open and welcoming council house.”