A LEADING councillor has quit a board that handles regeneration funding applications because, he says, political opponents are trying to stop him asking searching questions.

Durham City Council's Mike Syer was the only Labour member of the Liberal Democrat-dominated Flourishing Communities Fund executive board, which was set up to recommend to the council's cabinet which applications to approve.

But he has resigned after he was told he could not join in discussions of the board's work by the policy scrutiny panel, of which he is also a member, because there would be a "conflict of interest".

Councillor Syer has been a critic of the council's policy of selling off land it owns to raise money for regeneration.

He and his Labour colleagues say villages in the district are losing out because money from land sales in them is funding the new baths in Durham city centre.

He claimed his political opponents were trying to gag him because he was asking questions about the criteria drawn up to assess applications to the regeneration fund.

He said: "I was critical of the fact that at one scrutiny panel meeting, there were no independent witnesses we could ask questions of.

"Why are Liberal Democrats worried about effective intervention? Is it that they have something to hide, or it political point scoring?''

Council leader Fraser Reynolds said: "There was no requirement for Coun Syer to resign from the board, but he has got a conflict of interest.

"All he needed to do was withdraw at that point in the scrutiny panel meeting, having declared an interest, and he could have retained his position.

"It is a great shame someone with his experience has taken this route. He has chosen not to contribute to helping his own ward and others access funding from which they will benefit.''