TOWER HAMLETS Councillors have begun to react to the shocking news that the Government is sending in “Intervention Advisors” to supervise the Council’s work to improve its Children’s Services.
Opposition People’s Alliance leader Cllr Rabina Khan has pointed out that a mere six months have passed since the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government ended his Commissioners’ intervention at Tower Hamlets Council, where they had overseen a number of functions under Mayor Lutfur Rahman and then the new Mayor, John Biggs.
John Biggs became the mayor in June 2015 and hoped the Government could be persuaded to withdraw the Commissioners early so the Council could begin running its own affairs again. However, most of the Commissioners stayed on till the planned leaving date in March 2017, keeping John Biggs under supervision for the first 21 months of his Administration.
It was during this period of supervision that the Children’s Services were inspected by Oftsed and found to be “inadequate” – having previously been judged “good with outstanding features” two years in to Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s Administration.
Cllr Rabina Khan has described the Ofsted Report as having found “that officials were clueless as to whether fostered children had been ‘trafficked or abandoned’ and vulnerable children were at risk of actual or potential harm. The Report heaped blame on Mayor John Biggs’s Labour Administration and criticised Cabinet Member Cllr Rachael Saunders, who has since resigned, for having failed to turn up to a single meeting of the Borough’s safeguarding board in the two years she had been in charge.”
Yesterday the Government issued new directions for intervention – compelling the council to follow the instructions of Education Secretary Justine Greening on how to improve its children’s social services department. The Directions issued by the Secretary of State include the appointment of “Intervention Advisors” from Leicestershire and Islington councils to oversee the Council’s improvement programme – and an instruction that the Council must co-operate with them.
Commenting on the Secretary of State’s Order, a Tower Hamlets council spokesperson said, “Children’s social care services remain under the full control of Tower Hamlets – which is clear from the DfE Direction issued. We have a highly ambitious and achievable plan to achieve a good rating for children’s services from Ofsted by April 2019.
“Work is already well underway and our Children’s Services Improvement Plan is our programme to fundamentally change the way that we will now deliver children’s services. The council is investing an extra £4.8m in children’s services for improvements required by Ofsted.”
Cllr Rabina Khan responded to the news of a second period of supervision, saying, “The Commissioners are back under another name, and sadly it’s necessary because our social services are clearly unsafe. John Biggs promised to be Mr Fix-It, but he can’t blame this intervention on the previous Administration. If he has a shred of decency, he’ll follow Rachael Saunders and resign.”