Shadow local government secretary Andrew Gwynne has called for Northamptonshire CC leader, Matt Golby, to quit after ‘repeated failures’ in the council’s children’s services.
Mr Gwynne spoke out after the publication of serious case reviews today into the deaths of two young children murdered by men with histories of domestic abuse, drug use and violence.
The violent father of two-year-old Child Ak is serving a 24-year minimum term after inflicting multiple injuries on his son while the then boyfriend of 1-year-old Child Ap’s mother has been jailed for at least 17 years after being convicted of murder.
Chairman of the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Board, Keith Makin, said: ‘There is no doubt that these two high-profile cases will raise genuine concerns about some elements of the child safeguarding sector in Northamptonshire at this time. I have to acknowledge that, but I am confident too that significant progress has already been made and continues to be in terms of the learning and process improvements which have taken place since.’
The Government announced last month that a children’s trust would be created covering the whole of Northamptonshire when the county council is abolished in favour of two unitaries as part of a reorganisation.
Northamptonshire’s director of children’s services, Sally Hodges, who joined the council after the two deaths, said it made an ‘enormous degree of sense’ to keep the service together.
She said turning round the service was ‘quite a substantial task’ that was ‘not going to happen overnight,’ adding it was ‘impossible to say’ when a good rating from Ofsted might be achieved.
Ms Hodges apologised on behalf of the organisation and said the children involved were ‘let down’.
She added: ‘We recognise our failings and are doing everything we can to improve. We have overhauled and improved our management practises across the service that were found so severely lacking.’
Cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Fiona Baker, added: ‘We cannot rest until we know we have done everything humanly possible to limit the chances of bad people committing such heinous acts upon children in this county. Since this tragedy much progress has been made but there is still much to do.’
MPs heard recently that high turnover rates – and the ongoing risk aversion generated by the Baby P case – were exacerbating the funding crisis in children’s services.
Mr Gwynne said: ‘A decade after the tragic death of Baby P and vulnerable young people are still being failed, a situation made worse by years of Government cuts to the services that are there to prevent these tragedies from happening.
‘There have been repeated failures in children’s services in Northamptonshire since 2013 and there is now no question: council leader Matt Golby has to go. He failed when he was in charge of children’s services and he’s failed since taking over the council.
‘The people of Northamptonshire need to be reassured that vulnerable children in the county will be protected and the county council must immediately restore the funding that it has cut from children’s services.’
Responding to the call to quit, Cllr Golby said: 'I am truly and deeply sorry for the mistakes that were made and the systemic faults leading up to these awful tragedies.
'As cabinet member I didn’t have sight of individual social work cases.
'However, I was aware of the challenges the department was facing at this time and equally was aware of the urgent work taking place to address these.
'I believe I still have so much to give as leader of the council - not least in my determination to put right the mistakes that were made in these awful cases.'