A leaked document showing plans to make it harder for residents in Kingston to influence decision-making at public meetings has been called an “attack on democracy”.

The Liberal Democrat administration won power in 2018 following a campaign for a “democratic, transparent and listening council”.

But now a document leaked from inside the authority details plans to limit time for public speaking, make it 10 times as difficult to bring a decision to the scrutiny panel, and other measures critics say will silence residents.

New Malden resident and campaigner James Giles said: “I am appalled and aghast at these proposals, which are an attack on our local democracy.

“The Liberal Democrats were elected on a manifesto promising to reintroduce the scrutiny panel, and promised to be a ‘listening and transparent’ council.

“Yet now they are making it virtually impossible to bring anything to scrutiny.”

Currently, it takes a petition with just 100 signatures to call a decision in, but the document suggests this will rise to 1,000 – and petitions must either be in hard copy or through the council’s own website, which requires signatories to register an account.

The council said the plans would also mean residents can no longer address full council meetings in five-minute deputations, although the authority said new arrangements will in fact "make it easier" for people to speak.

The proposals came about after a Local Government Association (LGA) report suggested a small group of campaigners is greatly overrepresented at meetings.

Mr Giles, who can often be found sitting in the public gallery at the Guildhall, said: “There is no trust in the council from residents.

“Fewer than 2,000 residents voted for the leader of the council, Liz Green, yet now she plans to remove and restrict the rights of all 165,000. This is not democracy.”

Bob Tyler, who lives in Surbiton and regularly campaigns with Mr Giles, added: “The council is trying to take us back twenty years to a time when decisions weren’t transparent, were poorly documented and residents didn’t have a voice.

“As a resident who has brought an item to the scrutiny panel, I find it disturbing that the council are now trying to take that right away from me and my neighbours.

“Their petition system is a nightmare, and this will completely disenfranchise large swathes of the borough.”

A Kingston Council spokesman pointed to the LGA review.

He said: “Their report highlights that our constitutional processes are outdated and confusing, and present a risk that a vocal minority of local residents who may or may not represent the views of the wider community could have a disproportionate influence on decision making.

“Our proposals are designed to directly address these concerns and improve decision making and the way in which we engage with people so that we are fully informed of the issues of concern to our local communities.

"Under the council’s constitution, residents are permitted to speak at Full Council via deputations, petitions or community motions for up to five minutes. In the case of petitions and motions you cannot speak unless 500 signatures have been collected.

“No final decisions have yet been taken.”

The plans will be discussed with councillors and then at upcoming committees, and are expected to be in place from September.