BOURNEMOUTH residents who join a new online opinion panel are being asked to state their religion, sexual orientation – and whether they identify as transexual or transgendered.

The questions are put when people register for the council’s E-Panel, designed as a cheaper alternative to telephone surveys which have cost £66,000 in the last two years.

Wendy Sharp, secretary of the Throop, Muscliff, Strouden, Townsend and Holdenhurst Area Forum, said she decided not to join the E-Panel after seeing the questions, describing them as “bureaucracy gone mad”.

She told the Echo: “I don’t see what being transexual has got to do with consultation on emptying the bins, the town centre or dog fouling. What would it matter?

“What are they going to ask us next: ‘Do you like Marmite?’ Nobody stands up for minority groups more than me, but I don’t see that we have to have this unnecessary invasion of privacy.”

Council officers have told the forum that the government requires them to monitor equality to make sure services are fully inclusive.

They say the council is following an Equality and Human Rights Commission recommendation to gather more data on sexual orientation to help public policy decisions.

And they argue that giving people the chance to declare sexual orientation or disability “supports under-represented groups, recognising them as a normal part of our society”.

But veteran independent councillor Ron Whittaker said: “There’s no reason whatsoever to ask people these questions. It’s an infringement of their liberties.

“Ward councillors are there to filter information.

“Let local authorities decide what’s best and how we consult rather than government telling us.

“This is providing people with jobs in quangos.”