A SOMERSET leader has hit out at officials who he claims have withdrawn an invitation to lay a wreath on Remembrance Sunday due to the upcoming General Election.

Cllr David Fothergill, the Conservative leader of Somerset County Council, hit out at Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) on Twitter.

However, SWT said it has 'altered' the composition of civic figures at the wreath-laying ceremony to 'exclude political figures' and that no political figures form the authority would take part.

Cllr Fothergill said: "Absolutely disgraceful that (Somerset West and Taunton Council) have today withdrawn my invitation to lay a poppy wreath in remembrance of the 11,291 fallen from Somerset on the grounds of a pre-election period," he wrote.

"They should be ashamed."

The politician had been invited to the ceremony in Taunton, where wreaths are laid at the war memorial in Vivary Park.

He said: "I'm very disappointed that Somerset West and Taunton Council have taken this decision, which I think brings politics into an area of Remembrance where it's never existed and disrupts remembrance of all those who gave their lives."

A spokesperson for SWT told your County Gazette: "The original invitation was for a Civic representative from Somerset County Council to lay a wreath at the ceremony.

"Neither the Chair nor Vice-Chair were available so the Leader of Somerset County Council, kindly stepped in.

"This was arranged before the General Election was announced.

"Restrictions are imposed on us during the pre-election period to avoid showing bias or support to any political party, and unfortunately this impacts on the Remembrance commemorations this year.

"The composition of the Civic Party at the Wreath Laying Ceremony has been altered to exclude political figures.

"There are no political figures from SWT involved in the ceremony.

"The council is being represented by its Civic representatives and the CEO.

"As the Civic representatives of SCC are unable to attend we have extended a further invitation to the CEO of SCC to attend on behalf of the authority.”

Former Taunton Deane Mayor Cllr Libby Lisgo has also criticised the decision to ban local politicans from taking part in the wreath-laying ceremony on Sunday.

Cllr Lisgo, a member of the Labour Party, said: "Many of our members are ex services personnel and we have laid a wreath for many years without ever making a big thing about it.

"It's a mark of respect and commemoration of sacrifices made.

"I'm currently being told we can only do this AFTER the official service has ended, because of purdah. This is a local decision - not nationally imposed!

"To say that I am incandescent would be the understatement of the decade."