A council meeting that was due to scrutinise health and adult social care in St Helens had to be re-arranged after just two councillors turned up.
St Helens Council’s health and adult social care overview and scrutiny panel was due to take place on Monday at 4.30pm but was declared inquorate after eight Labour councillors failed to attend.
Legally, a quarter of the panel needs to be in attendance for the meeting to be quorate – meaning the proceedings would be valid.
Several items were due to be discussed by the panel, including an adult social care and health budget overview and an update on the borough’s supported living arrangements.
However, Conservative councillor Linda Mussell and Labour’s David Banks, chairman of the panel, were the only elected members present for the start of the meeting.
Coun Banks apologised to those who attended, which included senior council officers and representative from Healthwatch St Helens – a non-voting member of the panel – and adjourned the meeting.
Labour’s David Baines, who is also the chairman of the council’s overview and scrutiny commission, did not attend and said it was down to a “breakdown in communication”.
“It’s clearly not good enough for things like this to happen, but it is incredibly rare,” Coun Baines said.
“Members occasionally have other important commitments which can’t be avoided.
“However there has been a breakdown in communication in this case and I’ll be working with officers to improve notifications and attendance of meetings.”
The scrutiny meeting had originally been set for 4.30pm on March 18 but was pushed forward one week at the request of members.
Labour councillors David Baines, Alan Cunliffe, Carole Ann Gill, Barrie Grunewald, Mancyia Uddin, Jeanie Bell and John Wiseman did not attend the rescheduled meeting.
Apologies were received from councillors Bell, Gill, Grunewald and Wiseman.
Moss Bank Labour councillor Trisha Long arrived at 4.50pm, but the meeting had already concluded.
Speaking after the meeting, Coun Mussell accused Labour councillors of showing “contempt for the process and the residents they represent”.
The Conservative councillor for Rainford said work commitments are “not an excuse” for missing meetings and said elected members who cannot commit to the panel should step down.
Coun Mussell, who is a former district nurse, said: “I’m disappointed they don’t recognise the importance of having good scrutiny and holding the department to account for the work that they do.
“It’s the biggest budget in the council and the most vulnerable people are considered in adult social care.
“They’ve got to see the importance of the work that the scrutiny panel do and to not turn up is not acceptable in my mind.
“Scrutiny is an important role to hold the council to account and make sure what’s being done is right.
“And to just not turn up for something as important as adult social care brings us all down to a level and I don’t want to be brought down to that level.”
St Helens Council declined to comment.