A war of words erupted between Kingston Council (RBK)'s Liberal Democrat majority and a residents' group Tuesday over community engagement.

Council Leader Liz Green accused Kingston Independent Residents' Group (KIRG) of playing politics after they successfully forced RBK's planned community consultation framework to be reviewed at a Scrutiny Panel before it is rolled out in the borough.

The Group in turn said Kingston Lib Dems had "forgotten a fundamental principle of our modern society" after disagreeing with the details of their plans to improve engagement in the borough.

KIRG launched a petition last month to bring the Lib Dem Administration's Community Engagement Framework, which hopes to engage more people in the borough with the work done by local authorities in Kingston, to a Scrutiny Panel for review.

They since received the requisite number of signatories and the Community Engagement Framework document will now feature at the Scrutiny Panel, scheduled for tonight (July 30).

More specifically, the KIRG opposed the exclusion of two of its members — Bob Tyler and James Giles — from contributing to the bill on the grounds that they had not followed protocol for members of the public correctly during the committee where the Framework was initially approved.

They also opposed the document on the grounds that it failed to include "concrete timescales", had "attempted corporate jargon" and did not feature an impact risk assessment.

On Tuesday, Cllr Green, who leads the Lib Dem majority in Kingston, hit back at KIRG.

In an open letter seen by the Comet, Cllr Green said:

"The KIRGs are a political party and as such are just out to oppose much of the work of the council.

"We just want to get on with improving community engagement and it is pretty ironic that these self styled ‘community activists’ have delayed the framework in this way."

She added that the petition's success in forcing the Framework to a Scrutiny Panel was also misleading because it only reflected a small percentage of residents in the borough.

"We want to hear from all residents but it looks to me that the KIRGs are trying to ensure that the voices of the majority residents are drowned out by those who shout loudest.

"The call-in required just 100 signatures (only 0.06 per cent of the population) — let’s see how many of those 100 actually turn up to the meeting," Cllr Green said.

A spokesperson for Kingston Lib Dems added that RBK's ruling majority were committed to residents engagement and that KIRG had simply slowed this process down.

"Instead of letting the council get on with talking to the community about the best way to fully engage, members of KIRG, who spend most of their time complaining about a lack of community engagement, have called the item to a full Scrutiny Panel for obscure procedural reasons," the spokesperson said.

In response, KIRG's James Giles accused the Lib Dems of "failing to protect minorities" in their Framework proposal.

"I am delighted the Leader Liz Green has realised how important community engagement is.

"This is neither a petty or a minor procedural issue — rather a fundamental principle of our modern society, and evidently one the Kingston Lib Dem’s have forgotten.

"We make no apologies for holding those in power to account and challenging them to engage more with all of the local community," Mr Giles said.

"We don’t elect a dictatorship every four years - we believe in challenge, transparency and are saddened that highlighting a failure to protect minorities has been branded by the Lib Dem’s as petty," he added.

The Scrutiny Panel is taking place tonight at Kingston Guildhall from 7pm. For more information go to: https://moderngov.kingston.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=347&MId=8882&Ver=4