Labour and Tory councillor exchange blows over inadequate children's services

The exchange happened at a full council meeting on Wednesday.
The exchange happened at a full council meeting on Wednesday.

Wakefield's Labour and Conservative groups have exchanged jibes over the state of the district's children's services, after the local council was allowed to remain in control of it.

The government concluded last week that the local authority had made sufficient progress in improving the service, after a damning Ofsted report in the summer said vulnerable children were being failed by it.

Portfolio holder for children and young people Margaret Isherwood said Conservative criticism of the service was "unfair"

Portfolio holder for children and young people Margaret Isherwood said Conservative criticism of the service was "unfair"

Ministers decided against taking over the service themselves or instructing that it be privatised.

However, the council will be scrutinised further over the coming months to ensure it remains on track with the improvements.

Speaking at a full council meeting yesterday, Cabinet member for children and young people Margaret Isherwood thanked social workers for their efforts over recent months, but added that there was "more work to be done".

She said: "We need a steely focus so we can now move forward and achieve what we want, which is a good service for our young people.

Coun Nadeem Ahmed said that the authority should wait for another Ofsted report before drawing conclusions about the state of the service.

Coun Nadeem Ahmed said that the authority should wait for another Ofsted report before drawing conclusions about the state of the service.

But the leader of the Tory opposition, Nadeem Ahmed, said that the outcome of the government's inspection was "nothing to be celebrating" and said that the scrutiny the service was placed under represented a "worst case scenario".

He said: "I think we have to recognise that we have to wait for another Ofsted inspection before concluding that the service is in the state that it should be.

"The commissioner's visit in the first place shows the council wasn't capable of meeting the needs of the young people.

"Though the work of the staff has ensured that the council hasn't lost the service, until another inspection's confirmed there's still a lot of work required to make sure that it's at a good level."

In response, Coun Isherwood branded that assessment "unfair" and said that of 16 authorities to have had their children's services rated inadequate, Wakefield was one of only two to have been allowed to keep hold of the department.

She said: "We fully appreciate what state we were in.

"I'm not saying we are brilliant. But we've done the work, we will do the work and we know what we have to do.

"To undermine the work that's been done already in the way that you have done, is not fair."