NO public meetings will be held at Bury Town Hall until September.

Committee rooms, where public council meetings are held, will remain closed for now to reduce close contact and stop the spread of coronavirus.

Cllr Bob Caserta, chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee, was hoping to hold the first meeting back in the council chambers next week.

The Conservative councillor, whose committee is responsible for scrutinising the work of executive cabinet members and council directors, said he wanted to see the “whites of their eyes” which he cannot do via video conference.

He said: “Despite repeated attempts over the last four weeks to have some semblance of a scrutiny committee in the town hall on the July 14 and a unanimous vote by all members to attend, the chief executive is refusing to allow it to take place.

“This is a council room that could cater for at least 100 people and there would only be about 18 officers and members in attendance.

“I had also arranged for an open video link for the public so that questions could be directed to the relevant officer.

“When the pubs and schools – even Bury market – are open in Bury, with social distancing, the people still cannot exercise their democratic rights and hold this council to account.”

The last council meeting to be held in the town hall took place on March 18, days before the lockdown started – but social distancing was enforced and members of the public were asked not to attend.

After the meeting, Cllr Tamoor Tariq, now deputy council leader, was rushed to hospital after he collapsed and was later diagnosed with coronavirus.

Virtual meetings have been held online using Microsoft Teams and since April 16 those meetings usually held in public are broadcast online.

A council spokesman said: “The town hall is already open to the public on the ground floor, which includes the reception and cashier desks and the register office, which account for most of our visitors.

“The majority of staff who normally work elsewhere in the building are continuing to work from home, and the committee rooms remain closed for the time being to reduce close contact and stop the coronavirus spreading.

“The lockdown has allowed us to carry out a number of repairs and improvements to the building, including to the lifts, toilets, staircases and heating system.

“We will review the situation in September and assess whether the building can be more widely opened.”

Bury Council’s meetings which are held in public are available to watch online, live or at a later date, by visiting