Wakefield children's services: leaders in heated exchange over Ofsted report

Angry exchanges took place between Coun Ahmed (left) and Coun Box (right) on Wednesday.
Angry exchanges took place between Coun Ahmed (left) and Coun Box (right) on Wednesday.

Tempers flared in a council meeting as Labour and Conservative councillors clashed over Ofsted's latest report about Wakefield's children's services.

Council leader Peter Box and the leader of the Tory opposition Nadeem Ahmed each called for the other to resign during heated exchanges in the County Hall chamber on Wednesday.

Wakefield's children's services was placed in special measures in 2018.

Wakefield's children's services was placed in special measures in 2018.

Coun Ahmed said that the authority's ruling Labour party had failed vulnerable children, while Coun Box claimed his opposite number had played no part in improvements the service has made.

Ofsted published its latest findings on children's services, which they placed in special measures in 2018, last week.

The watchdog said that the "impact of planned actions is too slow" within some areas, but it did highlight several areas of improvement.

But Coun Box was heavily critical of press coverage of the report, which he suggested was inaccurate.

Coun Box attacked media coverage of Ofsted's latest findings.

Coun Box attacked media coverage of Ofsted's latest findings.

Addressing councillors, he said: "Can I say I think it's unfortunate that the media have said the report says 'Progress was too slow'.

"Nowhere in the report was that said. Nowhere.

"Where did it say that progress was too slow?

"I'm proud of the work that Beate (Wagner, director of the service), and her colleagues have done and I'm proud of the progress that's been made.

Conservative Nadeem Ahmed said Ofsted's findings were "not positive" for the council.

Conservative Nadeem Ahmed said Ofsted's findings were "not positive" for the council.

"Let me make it clear to the council and the public that we are not falling behind on the improvement plan which was agreed by Ofsted and the commissioner.

"We are not falling behind. We are absolutely on target. Ofsted in their letter recognised that."

Coun Box said that a report by a government-appointed commissioner analysing the service would be published in the coming weeks, and would vindicate the progress that had been made.

He also took issue with his opposite number, Councillor Nadeem Ahmed, who'd first called for Coun Box to stand down on Tuesday.

The Labour leader, who has run the authority since 1998, claimed Coun Ahmed had not attended meetings of an improvement board, set up to drive progress within children's services.

But Coun Ahmed said: "The impact of planned actions is too slow. That's what the Ofsted report says.

"Maybe that should have been put in capital letters for you. The media has got it right actually. It was balanced in the way it was reported.

"It's not a positive (Ofsted) report. It says clearly that the front door service is not working in the way that it should.

"There's positives in the report. We do need to acknowledge that.

"But if the children in this district at most risk of harm do not feel safe then that says that something is seriously wrong.

"I think it's time for other people to step aside and let someone with fresh ideas come forward."

Local Democracy Reporting Service