The Liberal Democrats won such a huge majority on Bath and North East Somerset Council last year that the council may have to change its constitution.

In the 2023 local elections the Liberal Democrats won two-thirds of the 59 seats on the council. Previous opposition group the Conservatives were left with just three seats, leaving Labour to become the official opposition for the first time with seven councillors.

Labour group leader Robin Moss (Westfield, Labour) warned that the council’s constitution needs to be updated to handle such a dominance by one party.

Speaking at the council’s annual general meeting on May 16, Mr Moss said: “This constitution was designed about 30 years ago for a council that is hung, and a lot of the numbers and the remit within this is anticipating that it is either a hung council or its a council that has a relatively close number of members in groups.

“And I’m sure — looking at the group opposite smiling — that they know that this is no longer the case.

“That does mean that some of the elements within the constitution — for example asking to have a ten minute debate on questions — is limited to those political groups that have 20% of the numbers in council. And that applies just to the Liberal Democrat group.”

He added that the limit on the number of call-ins could also pose a problem. Nine councillors are able to sign a “call-in” to ask the council leadership to reconsider a decision, but are limited to only doing so five times a year, and there are only 18 councillors outside of the ruling Liberal Democrat group.

Mr Moss said: “I would be surprised to see a call-in coming from the Liberal Democrats, and I am sure the Lib Dem council leader Kevin Guy would be more surprised.”

Mr Moss was speaking as the council voted to set up a constitution working group to refresh the constitution and ensure it is fit for purpose. Unlike other committees, the political balance of the working group will not have to mirror that of the whole council.

Despite holding two-thirds of the council seats, the Liberal Democrats will have four seats on the eight-seat committee, one of which will be the chair. The Labour group, Independent group, Conservative group, and Green group will each have one seat on the committee.

Mr Moss said: “What I think is worth looking at — and I’m not making any proposals at this point — is to look at the constitution in the light of the fact that we actually have a group with a large majority, and how do we make sure that opposition groups can do our job properly which is about scrutiny and is about challenge.”

The message mirrors a warning from Vic Pritchard, the Conservative former leader of the opposition. Speaking after he lost his Chew Valley seat in the 2023 local elections, he warned: “There’s such a dominance of Lib Dems they are scrutinising themselves.”