Call for leader to resign after government report slams council’s attitude on children’s services

The leader of a council which a high-level report claims worried more about its tarnished reputation than improving its failing children’s service has been called upon to resign.

Wednesday, 11th March 2015, 12:31 pm
Martin Tett

Bucks County Council Conservative leader Martin Tett and chief executive Chris Williams presided over the failing service, which was branded ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted last year.

Mr Williams and Mr Tett were singled out for criticism in a report by the taskforce sent into the department by the government, which was leaked to this newspaper.

The Red Quadrant report stated that in the days following the Ofsted report, council chiefs tried to save the ‘tarnished reputation’ of the council, rather than focusing at the job at hand to improve the service.

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Chris Williams - Bucks County Council Chief Executive

David Williams, Wycombe Labour’s Parliamentary candidate called for Mr Tett to resign over the findings.

He added: “Red Quadrant is scathing about Bucks County Council.

“It is now nine months since Ofsted assessed BCC’s Children’s Services as inadequate and Red Quadrant says BCC is still below the required standard. Red Quadrant slates BCC for its slowness in getting its children’s services up to an adequate standard and criticises BCC for its failure ‘at the highest corporate level’ to own and drive through the necessary changes.

“Red Quadrant says progress was slow because ‘key politicians’ cared more about the council’s tarnished reputation than they did about safeguarding Bucks children.

“These key politicians got ‘distracted’ in trying to defend the council rather than concentrating on improving care and safeguarding for disabled, ill, neglected and abused children.

“Red Quadrant concludes that the chief executive and some councillors were aware, at least from last January, that children’s services was struggling to operate at an effective level and children were at risk. But BCC failed to address the problems quickly enough and even after the Ofsted report, BCC needed ‘prompting by external intervention’.

But although Mr Williams appeared before the children’s services select committee yesterday, members had not been able to see the report in order to quiz him on the criticism.

Robin Stuchbury, who is a member of the committee, said: “The important thing in scrutiny is to be able to have the information to quantify the risk, not having this information meant that the committee couldn’t do its job.

“Even if we had only seen it in private we would have known what questions to ask to help protect vulnerable children.”

Chris Williams confirmed that the council had received a draft report from Red Quadrant which had been shared internally and with partners.

He said: “We will be publishing the report and making a full response as soon as we receive the final version and any comments from the Minister. I expect this to be in the next few weeks. What I can say is the council accepts all the recommendations in the draft report and we are already putting in place improvements to achieve a ‘Good’ rating within 18 months.”