One of the candidates to become the next leader of Birmingham City Council has slammed the decision by its ruling Labour group to shut down a public debate about the election.
Labour backbench councillors have told the five candidates bidding to succeed Sir Albert Bore as leader of the largest local authority in Europe they should not take part in public hustings.
The Labour group of 78 councillors meets in private on November 23 to elect their next leader and the winner, who will represent more than a million people, will be unveiled a week later.
So far, political blogger Pauline Geoghegan had organised a debate at the Impact Hub in Digbeth for November 16 but it appears now that none of the candidates will be appearing, something she described as "a scandalous decision".
The Birmingham Post was also making plans for a hustings event.
Issues such as child protection, potential cuts to services such as libraries, paying for elderly care, potholes, traffic congestion and refuse collection are all issues which will need to be tackled by the new leader.
At a private meeting on Monday, the five candidates - Councillors John Clancy, Barry Henley, Penny Holbrook, Mike Leddy and Ian Ward - were warned that the Labour group's executive committee would not endorse public hustings - effectively shutting the debate down.
Coun Mike Leddy, also a former Lord Mayor of the city, said: "It's bloody stupid. The residents need to see the participants, we should be out there."
While his rival Barry Henley added: "We should be transparent, we should let the public see."
Councillors John Clancy and Ian Ward had also initially agreed to attend the hustings before withdrawing in the light of the Labour committee's order.
Coun Holbrook had not declared her candidacy at the time of the decision.
Confusingly, committee members said this was not a ban - candidates are free to speak in public whenever they wish - but unofficially the candidates fear their chances would be harmed if they do take part.
One Labour councillor said: "While strictly speaking this is an internal Labour leadership election, the fact is this is about the leadership of the city council and we have been told to be more engaging, more outward looking and work with the wider city."
The move comes at a time when the city council is under close government scrutiny with the threat of a takeover if inspectors are not satisfied the city is making progress.
One of the key criticisms by government troubleshooter Bob Kerslake was the council had failed to reach out to the wider city, residents, businesses and other organisations.