Legislation aimed at cutting the amount of time people can speak at residents’ forums will stop “village bores” from driving people away, a councillor has claimed.

His comments came as councillors voted through an amendment to Barnet Council’s constitution stipulating that people can only speak for three minutes at residents’ forums, which enable people to bring any matters of concern to the attention of the council apart from planning issues.

Up until now, residents attending the forums have had an unlimited amount of time in which to air their views.

The amendment – which was voted on at the council’s annual meeting on Tuesday (May 22) – was described by Labour leader Barry Rawlings as “a vote to curtail democracy”.

But Conservative councillor John Marshall, vice-chair of the constitution and general purposes committee, described it as a “reasonable proposal”.

He added: “What we don’t want is the village bore coming along to an area forum and speaking for four, five, six, seven minutes.

“There are certain people who frequented forums and they have driven out other people by their comments.”

Cllr Marshall also claimed the Labour group’s leader and deputy leader had backed the proposal when it was discussed at the committee.

John Dix, who lives in New Barnet and has regularly attended residents’ forums, said the meetings were the only opportunity people had to discuss local issues that were important to them.

He added: “By restricting the time to three minutes, it is stifling any debate.

“If you go back to 2009-10, we had 10 residents’ forums in a year in Chipping Barnet. They typically lasted two hours. We now have four per year, and they often last less than an hour.

“They have made it so difficult to raise matters. You used to be able to do so beforehand or on the evening. Now it is seven days in advance.

“They have done everything they can to stifle debate.

“I was quite shocked to see councillor John Marshall saying people who speak for seven minutes are ‘village bores’. That is utterly disrespectful.”

At the end of the debate, councillors voted by 37 to 25 in favour of the amendment.