ST HELENS council leader Barrie Grunewald has defended his attendance record for Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

Cllr Grunewald returned to the Combined Authority’s cabinet in April 2017 following an extended layoff due to suffering a heart attack while on holiday in Gran Canaria in October 2016.

However, he has attended only two meetings in the past six months, in November 2017 and in March of this year.

Cllr Derek Long, St Helens Council cabinet member for Liverpool City Region engagement, usually goes in his absence.

Cllr Grunewald told the Star he has missed meetings due to hospital appointments and other “council business”.

He said: “People know that I was ill recently and as a result of follow-up appointments I could not always attend.

“I was also on other council business when I could not attend. I usually sent a substitute.”

Cllr Grunewald is not the only member with a poor attendance record.

The Combined Authority’s membership includes the five local authority leaders of Halton, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral Councils, the elected Mayor of Liverpool City Council Joe Anderson, the chairman of the Local Enterprise Partnership and the chairman of Merseytravel.

Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy was also brought into the cabinet by the Steve Rotheram after he was elected as Metro Mayor last May.

However, the Commissioner only attended two meetings during 2017, and also did not attend the January and February meetings this year.

A spokesman for Ms Kennedy said she has missed meetings for a variety of reasons including other work commitments, health and personal issues.

The spokesman said many of the conflicting diary commitments had been in the Commissioner’s diary before she was co-opted on the authority.

Ms Kennedy said: “I enjoy a constructive working relationship with the Metro Mayor and Merseyside council leaders, and attend LCR meetings, whenever diaries permit.

“In addition to the formal LCR meetings I have regular meetings with the Metro Mayor, where we discuss upcoming business, and I fully support the Metro Mayor and his team with the work that they are doing across the Liverpool City Region.”

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson has also not attended a meeting since Mr Rotheram became chairman in May, with the city’s deputy mayor Ann O’Byrne sitting in, in his absence.

A Liverpool City Council spokesman said: “The decision was made from the outset that the deputy mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Ann O’Byrne would attend the City Region Cabinet meetings on behalf of the city.

“The decision was taken for a number of reasons, including the need to redress the representational imbalance on the cabinet.”