A FORMER council leader has criticised the “absolutely appalling” turnout of councillors from across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole at a meeting on children’s services.

Less than 15 per cent of the 125 members of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole shadow authority attended the all-members’ meeting last week which was held to provide updates on work to support vulnerable youngsters.

Cllr Elaine Atkinson, who is a member of Poole council’s children’s scrutiny committee, said that the subject was one of the council’s “biggest responsibilities” and said that it needed to be “properly supported”.

Speaking at Thursday’s meeting of the shadow authority’s scrutiny committee, she said: “That [the meeting] was for all existing members, including members of Christchurch who don’t currently run children’s services, and there was less than 15 per cent of the total councillors of the shadow authority at that meeting.

“That was an absolutely appalling turnout.

“It’s one of the biggest responsibilities we have as a council and in terms of risk, we need to ensure that the services we provide for our children and our vulnerable adults are properly supported by us all.”

Cllr Nicola Greene, the cabinet member for children’s services at Bournemouth council, who also attended the meeting, said that it was “a pity” that the turnout was so low.

However, she said that Bournemouth and Poole councillors should already be aware of the work involved in supporting youngsters.

“It [the meeting] was energetically engaged with by those members who were there but of course it’s a pity it didn’t spread more widely,” she said on Thursday.

“However, I do think it’s worth saying that one would expect the unitary members [Bournemouth and Poole councillors] to have some familiarity with children’s services anyway.

“And I think from Christchurch it’s worth saying that they punched above their weight in terms of numbers.

“The attendance from Christchurch members was significant and very welcome.”

Children’s services work in Christchurch is currently managed by Dorset County Council but will become the responsibility of the new conurbation council from April.