Why didn't the cabinet know of chaos in children's services department?

Reporter:

Elgan Hearn

ROSEMARIE HARRIS, leader of Powys County Council, was forced to deny any prior knowledge of the chaos in Children’s Services before she took over as leader in May.

At last week’s stormy full council meeting the damning Care and Social Services Inspectorate report into Powys County Council’s Children’s Services was discussed at length.

The council has 90 days to turn things around, but the main question asked by councillors to the leadership was why didn’t the cabinet know about the state of affairs in the department?

And also was Cllr Harris, who is a cabinet veteran having held several portfolios over the last decade, aware of the problems?

Cllr Michael Williams (Machynlleth) said: “Members were not made aware of this failing, everything was shown as green, for go. That could not possibly be the case.

“Can I have assurances that no stone will be left unturned and any person or persons will be called to account.

“What we must do is hold an investigation to get to the truth.

“Staff were left on their own to deal with things ad-hoc.

“We need to learn from the past so that this never ever happens again.”

Cllr Huw Williams (Ystradgynlais), said: “Are you satisfied they (children) are safe at this moment?

“The leader has been involved in this for the last 10 years.

“All these shenanigans that were going on did not happen last week but some time ago.

“We’re being told that the cabinet weren’t aware, are you saying that the chief executive did not inform the cabinet?”

Cllr Harris said: “That’s technically correct, I’m telling you the cabinet was not informed when I was there.”

Cllr Harris added that under the last regime she had held the housing portfolio: “It was not close to social services”.

Cllr Stephen Hayes, the other current cabinet member who served in the last cabinet, was also forced to explain whether he had some knowledge of the problems.

Cllr Hayes said that he had understood that the chief executive had concerns about the director of social services who left the post in December 2016. But thought that as it was a decision on paid staff, it was up to the chief executive.

He did offer to fall on his sword, if asked to: “I am perfectly at the council and leader’s disposal,” said Cllr Hayes.

Chief executive Jeremy Patterson gave a “chronology of events” from autumn 2016 when problems in the department were beginning to surface in what was seen as a “sensitive issue”.

Mr Patterson said: “Concerns were expressed to the leader (former councillor Barry Thomas) and his deputies.

“It’s been a difficult couple of years politically.

“If I had got clarity from the previous leadership group, we could have caught this quicker and the issues uncovered sooner.

“We are where we are.”

Email:

elgan.hearn@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the County Times

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