THE West Somerset branch of the Labour Party is challenging the Avon and Somerset Police Commissioner over last year’s badger cull.

The challenge relates to the involvement of the National Farmers’ Union in policing the cull in West Somerset.

The Guardian newspaper obtained a report which, it claimed, revealed that a representative of the NFU was in the police control room while badgers were being shot.

Also allegedly present were representatives from HNV Associates, the firm which carried out the cull in the district.

According to the report, a police communications officer told an internal inquiry that he felt the representatives were ‘directing police operations’ from within the police’s own control centre.

The revelation, denied by the NFU, came in a police response to a complaint by an anti-cull activist whose car was searched.

The Labour Party has now written to commissioner Sue Mountstevens with a series of questions, asking among other things, if the representatives had access to information about people arrested during the cull.

Cllr Mick Lerry, Parliamentary candidate for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said: “It is important for Sue Mountstevens to answer the questions posed by the Labour Party.

"We cannot have secrecy around the issue of public interest, and she must be absolutely clear about the involvement of the National Farmers Union.”

Superintendent Kevin Instance said: “The decision to have representatives from the NFU was one taken with public safety as our primary concern.

“While training and other measures were put in place to ensure the cull was as safe as possible, shooting at night when there are members of the public around carries a risk.

“By having an NFU representative in the control room gave us real-time information about events on the ground and meant we could keep the public in those areas safe.

“After the 2013 cull we held a debrief and we will use the results from that to help influence our plans for this year’s cull.”