Council chiefs cared more about salvaging their ‘tarnished reputation’ than protecting vulnerable youngsters, according to a government report.
The scathing confidential report, which has been leaked to the Bucks Herald, was written by Red Quadrant, an independent consultancy which was parachuted in by the Department for Education to oversee improvements in the failing service.
The council missed the opportunity both to accept responsibility publicly for the inadequacies outlined in the report, and to spell out its commitment to improving services for Buckinghamshire children and families.Report by Red Quadrant
It says Bucks County Council chief executive Chris Williams failed to act quickly enough before and after a damning Ofsted report which branded the service ‘inadequate’.
The report says: “The immediate political attention focussed on the particular criticism within the inspection report that the council has not prioritised children’s safeguarding.
“This distraction meant that the council missed the opportunity both to accept responsibility publicly for the inadequacies outlined in the report, and to spell out its commitment to improving services for Buckinghamshire children and families.
“In our view the main motivation at this stage among some key politicians to deliver the improvement plan successfully, was the tarnished reputation of the council rather than safeguarding Buckinghamshire children.”
Findings in the report state that Mr Williams, who is paid £207,000 a year, has since taken on a more hands-on role and that the council has the capacity to be successful in its changes if the pace is kept up.
But Mr Williams was advised to stand down from his role on the service’s improvement board, in favour of someone independent.
Council leader Martin Tett also received criticism, with the report saying that while he was able to articulate the importance of the department his ‘depth of commitment to children’s services was not felt by staff who have not personally met with the leader’.
But councillor Lin Hazell, who took over the position of portfolio holder after the resignation of Angela Macpherson has been met with enthusiasm by the department.
The report said: “In discussion with staff groups Ms Hazell is well known and, anecdotally, has a presence within children’s services that was welcomed.”