'They’re presiding over a disaster’ – Labour slam ‘rotten’ county council over children’s services departures

County councillor Danielle Stone has accused senior county council staff of overseeing a 'disaster' in children's services
County councillor Danielle Stone has accused senior county council staff of overseeing a 'disaster' in children's services

The Labour opposition at the county council say the departure of the two highest officers in children’s services as well as the commissioner shows that something is ‘rotten’ within the authority.

It was revealed this week that the director of children’s services, Sally Hodges, and her assistant, Jean Imray, were both leaving the council.

Ms Hodges had only been in the role since February, and the duo’s departure came just days after the government appointed children’s commissioner, Malcolm Newsam, also stepped down.

The departures have left the service in the lurch, and the news has come as a shock for Councillor Danielle Stone, the Labour deputy at County Hall.

She said: “A few weeks ago Councillor Jane Birch and I met with the director of children’s services, Sally Hodges, and her sidekick, Jean Imray, to share with them our concerns about the state of the county’s children’s services.

“We were told by them, quite firmly, that they were both here for the duration. That they had both turned around services before. They said quite clearly they were not going anywhere. But they have gone. So what has happened? Their departure follows the departure of other senior personnel including the children’s commissioner.

“Clearly, something is rotten in the state of Northamptonshire. It is clear the government commissioners, the director of transformation and his large and expensive team, and the new chief executive are presiding over a disaster. What is the leader of the council saying and doing while the NCC ship heads for the rocks?”

The latest Ofsted report for children’s services rated them as ‘inadequate’, and the service needs to save £10 million from its overall budget this year. Wheels are also in motion to replace the service with a new children’s trust for when two new unitary authorities replace the county council in 2021.

In an email to staff, county council chief executive said that Ms Hodges’ contract had been ‘a limited one’ but that the service was heading in the right direction under her.

Councillor Stone has also repeated calls for council leader Matt Golby, who used to be the cabinet member for children’s services, to step down.

She said: “Maybe it is the leader who should go and allow someone with more authority and more vision to take his place? Maybe instead of paying for a really expensive superstructure we should get back to basics and pay our staff properly.

“We should be using the expertise of our own work force, the expertise of local councillors and the expertise of our own local organisations to reshape children’s services and produce good outcomes for all our children.

“A history of bad decisions by the Conservative administration has contributed to the mess we are in.”