Damning OFSTED report vindicates Labour opposition

By Mick Scrimshaw on July 30, 2019

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Northamptonshire County Council’s Children’s Services department has been in chaos ever since the first OFSTED reports condemning it came out in 2013. This was following huge funding cuts to the service by the Conservative Administration as they tried to deliver their government’s austerity agenda. Since that time huge amounts of money have been thrown at the service in various attempts to reorganise and improve it, including millions of pounds trying to set up the council’s discredited Next Generation project where they had intended to put the service into a third-party stand-alone trust model.

Following national criticism of this Next Generation plan (including from Max caller, the government’s own inspector who was sent it to look at the financial mess at NCC) the Conservatives abandoned that idea, only to have it forced upon them by central government as part of their radical unitary council solution for Northamptonshire.

The argument is that the service is failing to such a massive degree that the improvements that are needed to bring the service up where it needs to be would be too great to do at the same time as planning for the service to be split into two separate bodies to come under the direct control of the two proposed new unitary councils for Northamptonshire.

However, this latest report clearly shows that enough is enough!

All the effort and work that has gone on over the last few years seems to have come to nothing with the service still inadequate. This despite improvement plan after improvement plan, service reorganisation and transformation, and as well as coming under the direct responsibility of the government’s own Children’s Commissioner but yet we seem to be no further forward.

It is clear that everything tried so far is not working and simply transferring the service en masse to a new organisation with the same people in charge and the same working practices and culture is not going to work.

What is needed is a completely fresh start and if we are to have new councils (we’re still awaiting Parliament’s final decision) be given the job of delivering better and more efficient public services across the West and the North of Northamptonshire, they need to be given the opportunity to design their own service from scratch and not just buy into the already failing system that currently exists, albeit it with new governance which arguably could mean even less local accountability and transparency.

Cllr. Mick Scrimshaw

The Following is a joint Statement from Cllr. Jane Birch (Labour’s Children’s Services Spokesperson) and Cllr. Danielle Stone (Labour’s Deputy Leader) OFSTED report highlights serious issues in Children’ services.

The Labour group at the county council has been highlighting weaknesses in children’s services for years now. Our concerns are now backed by a damning OFSTED inspection report.

Children’s Services in Northamptonshire have been failing for 6 years. This is Tory misrule. An administration who thinks it’s OK to over pay consultants and interims, and under pay front line staff.

An administration that closed the Youth Service, closed Sure Start Centres, sacked all its middle managers. This is mismanagement on a colossal scale.

It is also an administration driven by the notion of outsourcing its responsibilities that sends our children out of the county and delivers them into the hands of unregulated services.

Cllr. Danielle Stone (Labour, Abington and Phippsville), says, “Enough is enough. The leader of the council must step down. This is a failed authority. We should have fresh elections so that we can sweep them out. They cannot manage money. They cannot manage services. The OFSTED report is absolutely damning. We need urgent action to protect our children, to support our families, to look after our front line staff”.

Cllr. Jane Birch (Labour, Kingsthorpe South, shadow portfolio for children’s services), says, “I am shocked and deeply hurt, but not surprised, by the judgement in this report. Our children deserve the very best we can give. Yet they have been made extremely vulnerable through years and years of mismanagement by an administration with the wrong priorities. A children’s trust, more outsourcing, is not the answer. We need to create locality working. We need community hubs staffed by well- paid permanent staff, working in partnership with the voluntary sector in each neighbourhood. I want all our children brought back into the county, where it is safe to do so. I want to see an end to supported housing for 16 -18 year olds. We should be developing a more protective supported lodgings service and we need to attract more in- house foster parents. Above all, we need to invest immediately in preventative services and early help services.”

(Photo above of Councillors Stone and Birch with others protesting about County Council cuts)

Mick Scrimshaw is the Leader of the Labour Group at Kettering Borough Council, the Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance at Northamptonshire County Council. He has a public record of standing up for Kettering as a County Councillor for the Northall division in Kettering, Northants and since May 2015, a Borough Councillor for the William Knibb ward. He is a keen cyclist and also runs a family business with his wife.

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