Meeting cancelled after SIX councillors fail to show up

Only two councillors managed to attend the scrutiny committee
Only two councillors managed to attend the scrutiny committee
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A council scrutiny meeting had to be cancelled after only two councillors attended.

St Helens Council members were due to meet at the town hall on Tuesday morning for the safer communities overview and scrutiny panel, the first time it had met since April.

Former assistant director of community services Jason Pickett – who has moved portfolios – and his replacement Stephen Tracey had attended to face questions from the panel regarding the council’s domestic abuse strategy.

However, six councillors did not attend the meeting, which subsequently led to it being cancelled as there was not enough members to conduct proceedings.

The item was shifted to the panel’s next meeting, although no date has been set.

Cllr David Baines, chairman of the overview and scrutiny commission, which oversees the council’s scrutiny panels, has apologised for the cancellation.

He said: “We’re very sorry the meeting had to be cancelled due to circumstances out of out of our control.

“We’re going to make sure the meeting is rescheduled as soon as possible.

“We take scrutiny very seriously and that remains the case.”

In total, five Labour councillors gave their apologies for absence – an accepted practice when one cannot attend – prior to the meeting.

Sutton councillors and husband and wife, Jimmy and Pat Jackson did not attend the meeting, nor did Bold ward councillor Lisa Preston.

Cllr Kate Groucutt was due to sit on the panel for the first time since being elected for Parr, but she too gave her apologies for absence.

Conservative councillor Linda Mussell, ward member for Rainford, failed to attend or give her apologies for absence.

Moss Bank councillor and chairman of the meeting, John Fulham, did not attend as he is currently on long-term sick leave. This was confirmed to the Local Democary Reporter service by the St Helens Labour group’s chief whip, Cllr Joe De’Asha.

The only elected members to attend the meeting were Earlestown ward councillor David Banks and Billinge and Seneley Green ward councillor Dennis McDonnell.

Co-opted members Ian Mullen, station manager at Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service for St Helens, and Ch Supt Louise Harrison, the local policing commander for St Helens, also attended the meeting.

A council spokesman said the meeting will “reconvene in the next few weeks”.

“The council takes scrutiny very seriously, and scrutiny has a good record in terms of the work it’s done for the benefit of the community,” the spokesman said.

“Today, we had an unfortunate combination of sickness and other commitments from some members which resulted in the cancellation of the safer communities overview and scrutiny panel meeting – however this meeting will reconvene in the next few weeks.

“A lot of the scrutiny work is undertaken by members outside the formal scrutiny panel meetings, and this work is continuing.

“However, because the work of scrutiny can involve engagement with the community, partners and members of the public, experience has shown that holding meetings during the main holiday period can have an impact on availability.

“As such, meeting dates are set appropriately to accommodate this.”