23rd Feb, 2017

Walkout during heated meeting over Ofsted fail

Rob George 17th Feb, 2017

COUNCIL chiefs rejected calls for the Government to step in and tackle the authority’s failing children’s services during a stormy meeting at County Hall.

The Labour group on Worcestershire County Council called for the Secretary of State to step in following a damning report from Ofsted which labelled the service as ‘inadequate’.

Inspectors highlighted ‘widespread and serious failures’ in the services in a devasting blow to County Hall chiefs coming just over six years after the council suffered an identical rating from a previous inspection.

Labour leader Coun Peter McDonald slammed the findings and told the meeting on Thursday (February 9) the blame lay with council leader Coun Simon Geraghty and his cabinet.

“This council failed to have the structures in place to set off the alarm bells to ring and without an Ofsted inspection it beggars belief what could have happened to those children in this authority’s care,” he said.

“The answer is not a grovelling apology from the Chief Executive which means little to those who have been let down by this council.

“Children in this county are at risk and all this Tory administation can do is put an eight point plan together and that is it problem solved.,” he added.

In response, Coun Marc Bayliss, cabinet member for Children and Families, said: “I am sorry the outcome of the Ofsted is not better than it is and I take my share of the responsibility for that.

“We will do better. This council must do better and it’s the number one priority for this authority.

“The one thing we do need is strong, stable and consistent leadership and the plan will address the issues raised in the Ofsted report which we take very seriously,” he added.

Council leader Coun Simon Geraghty echoed Coun Bayliss’s comments and labelled the report ‘a collective failure of the organisation and whole council’.

The meeting descended into controversy after council chairman Coun Tony Miller invited chief executive Clare Marchant to give a statement.

Labour councillors opposed the decision despite the meeting being advised by monitoring officer Simon Mallinson officers could be invited to speak at the behest of the chairman.

A heated debate resulted in the Labour group walking out during Ms Marchant’s statement in which she took responsibility for the failings.

A proposed vote of no confidence in Ms Marchant was submitted following the return of the Labour councillors but was rejected by Mr Mallinson as the debate had concluded.

The motion asking for the Secretary of State to step in to tackle the problems was overwhelmingly rejected.