Scrutiny meeting cancelled – after none of the eight councillors from Babergh turn up

Mid Suffolk councillor Rache Eburne

Mid Suffolk councillor Rache Eburne - Credit: Archant

A vital meeting to discuss benefit payments to people in south and central Suffolk had to be cancelled after not a single member of Babergh council turned up.

The Babergh and Mid Suffolk Joint Scrutiny Committee is made up of members of both authorities – normally eight from each.

To achieve a quorum at least one councillor from each authority has to be present. Seven of the eight Mid Suffolk councillors turned up to the meeting at Needham Market on Wednesday afternoon, but there was no one from Babergh.

At present Babergh has seven members on the committee – Neil McMaster resigned from the authority recently – but none of them were present.

One of the councillors, Mark Newman, said he was suffering from “an overdose of meetings” and had had to make a decision not to attend because he needed to devote some time to his job.

The meeting had been due to look at how the two authorities dealt with benefit claims and speakers from the Ipswich Citizens’ Advice Bureau and Disabled Advice Bureau had come to take part in the discussions.

Babergh Council leader Jennie Jenkins said: “We are sorry that a Joint Scrutiny meeting, being held earlier this week, had to be cancelled as not enough members were present for it to be quorate.

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“This is highly unusual and the first time this has happened in Babergh and Mid Suffolk’s recent history however we would like to apologise to anyone who may have made a wasted journey.

“Unfortunately, a number of our councillors were unable to make the meeting and passed on apologies. Due to a breakdown in communications not all of these apologies were passed on in time.

“A further meeting will be scheduled as soon as possible.”

The Mid Suffolk co-chair of the committee is Green councillor Rachel Eburne who said she had never seen a situation like this in the five years she had been on the council.

She said:“We had invited speakers from Citizens Advice Bureau and Ipswich Disabled Advice Bureau, who were waiting to give their presentations, as were council officers.

“Some councillors sent apologies, but did not provide a substitute and others provided neither. Not only did we waste valuable time of officers, councillors and guest speakers, but the business of both councils went unscrutinised.

“After the meeting I went to the website of Babergh District Council to see if I could find details of councillors’ attendance records, but was unable to find this information.

“I will be asking the chief executive of the councils to take steps to make councillors’ attendance at meetings much more readily available.”