Furious Tories have boycotted a council meeting amid a row over who should chair committees on Southend Coucil.

The Conservative group refused to turn up to Thursday night’s meeting of the General Purposes committee which passed an amendment to the council constitution.

The move allows the chair and vice chair of the scrutiny committee to be drawn from the ruling administration’s councillors.

For the past decade, Southend Council has appointed chairs from the council’s opposition parties.

But Labour leader Daniel Cowan sought to move away from this and amend the constitution to bring it more in line with a national precedent.

Speaking of the decision, Tory leader Tony Cox called it an “affront to democracy”.

He said: “We are taking a stand, and it is an affront to democracy.

“On this issue, it will be resolved one way or another and if the motion is passed, then we will be walking out when it comes to taking the vote. The former system has worked for ten years.”

Mr Cowan hit back at the accusations however, calling the Tory boycott an “organised tantrum”.

“We are formalising, through the correct processes, of the constitutions he put into action last year in which the administration of the day can vote on who can be chair and vice chair.

“It is worth pointing out that in the annual survey of overview and scrutiny, 65 to 70 per cent of chairs and vice chairs of scrutiny committees are held by administration members.

“Just 29 per cent of councils across the country have some members of the opposition, it was very unique and it was a position we respected the entire time it was in place.

“They broke the convention last year and opened pandora’s box.”

Mr Cowan added that he believes the Tories are “letting themselves and residents down” by not participating in council meetings.