UPDATED: Opposition councillors: “Children have to come first”

Opposition councillors have called for parties to work together to help Bucks County Council protect the vulnerable children it is currently letting down.

By Hayley O’Keeffe
Friday, 8th August 2014, 5:34 pm
BCC Cllr Steven Lambert
BCC Cllr Steven Lambert

In a report released today Ofsted inspectors branded the authority ‘inadequate’ highlighting a string of serious failings.

Liberal Democrat county councillor Steven Lambert, who is responsible for budget scrutiny at the council, said: “My focus and that of my group is to say every child matters, we need to go back to basics and I will be going through this report that is coming to scrutiny in September with a fine tooth comb.

“I’m not going to play politics with children’s lives. I think the cabinet needs to be more realistic about the budgets they set.

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“I will work with Angela (Angela MacPherson, cabinet member for children’s services) to achieve this and put politics aside.”

He added: “What Ofsted doesn’t pick up on though is the processes.

“One of the things that Sue Imbriano (director of children’s services) led was Family First, a family centred approach to looked-after children which brought in multi-agency support. That was exceptional.”

And Bucks County Council Labour leader Robin Stuchbury claimed that financial restraints from central government could be to blame for the damning report.

He said: “These findings are deeply worrying and raise questions about the standard of care vulnerable children are receiving in Buckinghamshire.

“We need urgent action to address these failings and we have to ensure that the right staffing and management procedures are in place to resolve these serious issues.

“Moving forward we need to bring these services up to standard and to assess how much cutbacks are to blame for this situation, councils are being hit hard by government spending cuts and I fear it’s now the most vulnerable in our society who are paying the price.”

UKIP leaders told how they will lobby the government for more money to pay for safeguarding children, and called for councillors to work together.

County councillor Phil Gomm said: “There’s £56million a day going abroad, and a few million of that would go quite nicely to help our own people.

“We are calling on all councillors to do what they can to help.

“This isn’t a political issue and it’s the children that we have to think of.

“If everyone works together we can make a real difference.”

But Wycome Labour Group called for portfolio holder Angela MacPherson to resign.

Linda Derrick, Wycombe Labour’s spokesperson for health and social care, said: “We have known for a long time that Bucks social services was failing vulnerable people.

“We know this from the many cases we have dealt with where people, children and adults, have had problems with BCC’s social services. Time after time we have found BCC’s social services to be incompetent and uncaring.

“And now at last we have had this confirmed by Ofsted and now at last BCC is forced to act.

“This isn’t report isn’t about a situation which happened some time ago and has now been put right.

“These failures go right through the system and stem from a lack of compassion and competence at the top.”