Watford’s mayor has accused the town’s MP of trying to "sabotage" his council’s Local Plan process.

Peter Taylor has written to Dean Russell expressing his "surprise and disappointment" about a letter Mr Russell wrote to all councillors on Monday afternoon.

Ahead of a key meeting on the future of development within Watford, Mr Russell wrote to members and said Watford Borough Council had failed to challenge its housing targets within the Local Plan.

He wrote that it had been confirmed to him that the housing target produced by the Government is "only the starting point" for local authorities in identifying housing need.

He said the councillors’ vote to submit the local plan "risked locking in" current housing targets of nearly 800 homes a year over the next 15 years - without letting the Government know about its concerns.

Related: MP's letter about Watford local plan sparks political row

But council members were critical of Mr Russell’s letter, in particular the timing of it, because it was received "just hours" before the full council meeting was scheduled to take place.

Watford mayor Peter Taylor described Mr Russell’s letter as "highly misleading", adding: "At the very last minute, the MP for the area pretends somehow that the council has all this power, that somehow the housing target doesn’t really matter.”

On Wednesday, Mr Taylor formally responded to the Conservative MP.

In his letter to Mr Russell, the Liberal Democrat mayor accused Mr Russell of trying to "sabotage the Local Plan process at the very last minute".

The mayor wrote that Mr Russell has "failed to stand up for Watford" when it comes to housing targets and was critical of the Government’s algorithm for calculating targets.

He also said the MP had not chosen to engage with the council on the Local Plan in any "meaningful" way until the day of Monday’s meeting, adding: "The local plan is one of the most important policy documents for Watford’s future, made more difficult by your government’s housing targets.

"That you waited until the day the plan was due to be adopted before showing any meaningful interest, and even then only to make misleading comments, is not behaviour one should expect of a responsible MP."

He later said: "In the face of the serious development pressures that Watford faces, it is disappointing indeed that the town’s MP should take so little interest in our local plan, attempt to sabotage it at the last minute, and be complicit in imposing unprecedented levels of development within our tightly constrained boundaries."

The mayor's spokesperson said today that "contrary to Mr Russell's opinion", the local plan is "not a place to challenge housing targets" and that to "add a section (outlining concerns) at this late stage which would achieve nothing would frankly be a waste of time and money for the council".

The mayor added: "Can he (Mr Russell) send me examples of councils that have had targets reduced?"

Responding to the criticism from the mayor, Mr Russell says he wrote to councillors "as soon as possible" on Monday after receiving a response from the Secretary of State earlier in the day about challenging housing targets within the Local Plan.

He added in a statement to the Observer: "One would have assumed at the very least the foreword to the Local Plan would mention (housing target) concerns given it’s the most important official document read by the National Inspectorate.

"The fact that councils could challenge targets via the Local Plan became clear following a recent letter from Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government, and was confirmed verbally on Monday by the Secretary of State.

"I suspect if I had not shared this information, I would have been criticised even further, as it would have been claimed I did not forewarn councillors ahead of their vote."

Mr Russell adds he is "disappointed" that his letter has been portrayed as "politicking" and that he is "rather surprised" at the "ferocity of the criticism".

The submission of the draft local plan to be examined by the Planning Inspectorate was passed by the ruling Liberal Democrat party at Monday’s meeting.