A politician has been gagged from asking Watford’s elected mayor about a taxpayer-funded payoff made to a private developer.

Labour leader Nigel Bell submitted a written question to Mayor Dorothy Thornhill about how much Watford Borough Council has paid developers Henry Boot for breaking its contract over Charter Place.

The company had been working with the council to regenerate the shopping centre, in High Street, but had its contract terminated last month when the owners of The Harlequin came in for the project.

Councillor Bell's question was due to be answered by the Liberal Democrat Mayor at a full council meeting this evening (Wednesday).

However he was informed yesterday that the question was being struck off the list because the council has signed a confidentially agreement with Henry Boot.

The Watford Observer understands from a town hall source that the payoff runs to hundreds of thousands of pounds, but is less than £500,000.

Following the move, Councillor Bell spoke of his disbelief that the figure was being hidden from the council taxpayers who had funded it.

He said: "As the leader of the Labour opposition I thought it was right to ask the question. I was taken aback that it was not allowed. It is important and the taxpayers have a right to know."