Parties unite in call for scrutiny of Norfolk County Council children’s services

County councillor George Nobbs

County councillor George Nobbs - Credit: Archant © 2008

A cross-party group of councillors yesterday called for Norfolk's children services department to be placed under close scrutiny amid continuing concern over its performance.

It follows a damning report by Ofsted earlier this year which rated child protection services at the county council as inadequate across the board.

Yesterday, members of the county council's cabinet scrutiny committee recommended their successors, following next month's elections, look carefully at the work of the children's services department.

George Nobbs, chairman of the group, said: 'From the day I was elected eight years ago, there were concerns about this department. We are far too indulgent about this department. If it was something like highways, we wouldn't have been half as uncritical as we have been.

'It is our duty to say that there has been kid-gloves treatment of children's services – the time for that is over.'

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The call for close scrutiny of the department, which is run by director of children's services Lisa Christensen, came from councillors from the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties.

Last night Bill Borrett, leader of Norfolk County Council, welcomed the members' call for scrutiny but warned against turning it into a party political issue.

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'It is an excellent idea,' he said. 'There is a much bigger issue here above party politics and that is doing the best job for the young people of Norfolk.

'We have had a report that says practice, though good in parts, isn't consistent. That's not good enough. Let's have a scrutiny and look at why we don't have a good performance across the board. We can't address the issues until we know what they are.'

Further support for the call for scrutiny of the department came from Liberal Democrat councillor Mike Brindle and Tony Adams, who represents Drayton and Horsford for the Conservatives.

Mr Adams said: 'What we haven't had the opportunity to do is hear from Lisa Christensen and any of the officers. Having said that, we have to acknowledge that something has gone badly wrong within the department – what, I don't know.

'This is such an important subject, especially when we're dealing with children and vulnerable children. I think it's got to be open to really rigorous scrutiny.'

Mr Brindle said the Ofsted report into child protection had been 'very damning'. 'We would be failing if we didn't take that up,' he added.

Membership of the scrutiny committee could change considerably following next month's elections.

Councillors stressed they were unable to determine any scrutiny items for their successors but strongly recommended they look at the work of children's services.

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