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Government commissioner allows Wakefield Council to retain full control of services

Almost four months after Ofsted inspectors identified “serious and widespread failures” across Wakefield’s children’s services, it has today been announced that the council will be able to retain full control of its portfolio.

Independent commissioner Peter Dwyer CBE – appointed by Whitehall in August to determine whether the council should lose control of its children’s services – determined today that any alternative delivery model could “disrupt the now rapidly developing improvement programme” in place at the authority.

Children minister Nadhim Zahawi MP agreed with the findings of the commissioner’s report, which argued that there was already “strong enough evidence that long-term sustainable improvement can be achieved” if the council retains full control of the once-failing services.

Since the Ofsted inspection in June this year, Wakefield has reportedly responded robustly and at a considerable pace to the challenges that came to light. It now has a “significant degree of stability and political leadership” in place and a wider senior management team that is “more closely engaged with understanding and supporting required improvement.”

Improvement work has been accelerated over the past few months by the local authority’s new director for children’s services and chief executive Merran McRae, who has been working with other new appointments to key leadership roles.

Significant cash resources have also been prioritised for children’s services – unlike many councils in the country, whose young people’s services have been the target of massive cuts – and this money is now part of the medium-term financial strategy.

Extra resources have also been diverted to increase frontline social work capacity, meaning caseloads are reducing and management oversight is getting better.

Nevertheless, commissioner Dwyer will carry out an interim review in May next year and produce a final report in November 2019, with findings reported back to the minister.

Cllr Peter Box CBE, leader of Wakefield Council, welcomed the government’s decision: “My efforts have been focused on getting the right people in place and making the required financial resources available. In addition, I have made sure there is more robust challenge and oversight across the council.

“The improvement we have achieved so far does not mean we are complacent. We fully understand that the scale of the transformation is considerable and the ongoing support of the commissioner is very welcome and appreciated.”

(Top image c. Stanley Walker)


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