A decision that stops the public putting questions to police leaders on the spot is "stifling" interaction.

In the past, anyone attending a meeting of the Police and Crime Panel could quiz Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd or panel members without notice.

But now they are being asked to submit any question in writing – seven days in advance.

At the time of the decision, in November, Panel chairman Cllr Tim Hutchings said the move was designed to make it easier for the public to ask questions – because they would no longer have to be in the room.

But county councillor Barbara Gibson – who is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for community safety – says it is “stifling” members of the public who do turn up.

And she is calling for the policy to be changed – so questions can still be submitted in advance or just asked at the meeting.

Cllr Gibson says she was “grudgingly” allowed to ask a question at the latest meeting of the Police and Crime Panel on Thursday (January 31).

But she intends to raise the issue – and the overall effectiveness of the Panel – at the next meeting of the county council’s community safety and wast management cabinet panel on February 14.

She said: “Giving people the opportunity to ask questions without being there is one thing – but refusing to let a question be asked at the meeting is stifling interaction.

“People ought to be able to come in and put them on the spot – whether they are asking a question of the Commissioner or the Police and Crime Panel itself.

“If the questions are put in writing the answers can be carefully crafted – but that’s not the point of these meetings.”

Cllr Gibson says she is also concerned because, she says, the Panel is not robust enough in holding the Police Commissioner to account.

And she says she does not see the level of probing questions from the Panel that she would expect.

Meanwhile Cllr Tim Hutchings, chair of the Police and Crime Panel, says it is “disappointing” that no members of the public had attended the Panel’s meeting last Thursday (January 31).

And he says there is a need to “do more to get the message out there” to encourage attendance.

However he says he does not accept the criticism of the change, with regard to written notice for questions.

He said: “I certainly do not accept that the change is ‘stifling’ it should ensure that people’s questions are properly considered, responded to and minuted.

“I should perhaps add that a small number of local politicians attended, they were given the opportunity to question the PCC on his budget plans but, in fact, only one took advantage.”

The next meeting of the Police and Crime Panel will be held at the council chamber at North Hertfordshire District Council, in Letchworth Garden City, on April 11, starting at 7pm.