Residents reacted angrily after local area committee meetings were officially scrapped yesterday evening at Redbridge Town Hall in Ilford.

The decision-making committees, which had an annual budget and enabled residents and councillors to discuss policies and local issues, were set up in 2000.

Diana Watson, coordinator for Wanstead Gordon Road Neighbourhood Watch, said: “This will take away our voices in the local community.

“We pay council tax so we should decide what is an appropriate use of public money and taking away our democracy is wrong.”

Michael Powis, 73, of Grosvenor Road in Wanstead, said: “Residents are not going to come to full council meetings to air their views because it is too intimidating and formal.

“We don’t have time to travel to Ilford for every council meeting, it was much more convenient to meet with councillors where we lived, it’s terrible this has been passed.”

Labour is proposing to replace the meetings with monthly public forums, with no decision-making powers.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Ian Bond said: “It is a dark day for the borough and this is a shameful decision to make as residents have a right to challenge councillors.

“There will now be very little opportunity for residents to speak face to face with councillors, it is quite simply the wrong thing to do.”

Council leader Jas Athwal defended the decision, citing savings of around £800,000 as the reason for the move.

He said: “The cost and poor attendance of these meetings means they could not be justified, we have to save £50 million in the next four years and hard decisions need to be made.

“We have been transparent and it was one of our election pledges so residents had their say on the matter by voting us into the council.”