Councillors walked out of a meeting in protest after the ruling Conservative group appointed one of its members to a scrutiny role traditionally filled by a politician from the opposition.

The Tories on Broadland District Council were accused of an "authoritarian imposition" after selecting one of their councillors to oversee the overview and scrutiny (O&S) committee.

The committee is intended to monitor the authority's decisions and hold it to account, and for more than a decade it has been headed by an opposing councillor to the leading group.

The decision to replace Liberal Democrat Steve Riley in the role with Conservative Martin Murrell angered the authority's Lib Dem and Labour groups, who walked out of a Thursday meeting when the appointment was announced.

Natasha Harpley, a Labour member, wrote on Twitter that it was an "authoritarian imposition" and meant the ruling administration was "effectively marking their own homework".

It comes at a time when the council has been facing difficult questions over its move from its Thorpe Road headquarters to a new site, to be shared with South Norfolk Council.

Lib Dem Dan Roper told the meeting: “You have to ask ‘why now?’ Why in a year when we are moving to a new building, [and facing] various budget challenges and it’s the year before an election?

“I take it as something of a vote of confidence in councillor Riley that they want to remove him and a lack of confidence in itself.”

Jan Davis, leader of the Green group - which did not walk out - said: “Electors would expect to have the lead opposition party chair O&S. It’s this creep in terms of poor governance that we shouldn’t slip into."

Shaun Vincent, leader of the council, said it was “disappointing” that the role was being made political, prompting laughs from the opposition benches.

He defended the appointment, insisting the council was "doing things in the right way".

“There’s nothing hidden, there’s nothing put out of the way," he said.

“[The committee] still has the ability to look, to question, to ask, just because the chairman has changed makes no difference.”

A vote to return Mr Riley to the chair was lost 10 to 22. Following the vote, the Labour and Lib Dem groups walked out of the meeting.