Children's Services - breach of BCC's constitution

Wycombe Labour called today for Bucks County Council to come clean on its decision- making on Children’s Services which appears to fundamentally breach its constitution. 

Linda Derrick, Wycombe Labour’s spokesperson on health and social care said, “In September, I asked Martin Tett, the Chair of BCC, exactly when he became aware that Children’s Services were inadequate and putting children at risk.   

He sidestepped the question, twice, and repeated that “It is not correct that I said that I was aware that BCC’s Children’s Services were inadequate and putting children at risk. I was aware of problems within our Children’s Services department. However, the specific findings of the OFSTED Report and their grading were not known to me until immediately prior to
publication.”

If he had read a letter sent in January by  Ms Imbriano, the Director of Children’s Services, to Chris Williams, the Chief Executive – or been given the main points - he would have known then that Children’s Services were inadequate and putting children at risk.   

Many of the specific findings of OFSTED were also in Ms Imbriano’s letter in January.  If Martin Tett knew the contents, he would have known about many of the findings then.  

Is he really saying that he was not sent Ms Imbriano’s letter or told of its contents?   

Is he really saying that neither the Director of Children’s Services nor the Chief Executive told him about her stark warnings nor provided him with her professional advice?  

If he is saying this, has he asked officers why he wasn’t provided with this advice?  

More importantly, why didn’t the Chief Executive make sure that all Councillors were aware of Ms Imbriano’s professional advice before their critical decision in February to reduce the budget of Children’s Services?   Would Councillors have reduced the budget if they had been given the advice in Ms Imbriano’s letter?  

And just as important, why wasn’t Ms Imbriano’s advice made public?  Why did it take a freedom of information request to get the advice into the public domain?   

BCC’s constitution requires BCC, when taking decisions, to take all relevant matters into account, to have the benefit of professional advice from officers and to do so in an open and transparent way with the reasons clearly articulated.  Officers are responsible for giving objective advice and up-to-date information to all Councillors on an impartial basis.

BCC are trying to shrug this off by saying that Ms Imbriano’s letter wasn’t a statutory letter, just a management letter between Chief Executive and a member of his staff.    

However, BCC’s constitution makes no distinction and unless there is a good explanation, this is a clear breach of its articles.”  

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