THE axe has fallen on Poole's area committees which will be chopped from the council calendar from January 1.

"This is another nail in the coffin of local democracy in Poole," said Cllr David Brown, who presented an e-petition signed by 265 residents calling on councillors to save them.

The petition urged members to work to strengthen and publicise area committees to allow more people to engage with their elected representatives instead of voting to discontinue them.

"Residents' associations and other groups had signed up," said the Liberal Democrat member. "But these appeals fell on deaf ears."

Borough of Poole voted to discontinue area committees, which gave residents an opportunity to question members and officers and had budgets and the power to spend money on improvements such as yellow lines.

"They had been operating for around 20 years," said Cllr Brown. "I know they don't work in some areas but in Broadstone, Merley and Bearwood they were very successful.

"We had more than 40 people at the last meeting, the hall was nearly full, the car park was full and there was a lot of good questions, information and debate. It's throwing the baby out with the bath water," he said.

The idea is to replace the six area committees with community forums, led by ward councillors, but little information is available about funding and organisation.

Cllr Drew Mellor, chairman of the governance working party, which made the recommendation said: "I am confident that the wide ranging recommendations of the working party should positively enable more voices to be heard."

These include more use of digital communication and borough wide meetings to consult with residents on key issues.

"Sadly, the area committee meetings were scrapped, without any coherent borough wide replacement in place," said Bob Lister, chairman of Poole Beach Huts Association, who signed the petition.