I woke this morning to the news that Essex County Council has, for the second year running, been rated as delivering some of the worst children’s services in England. Nine councils are rated as poor, including Essex [PDF report here] and the London Borough of Haringey, which faced massive criticism because of the way it handled the awful Baby P case.
It seems extraordinary that the Conservative councillors who run Essex County Council allowed children’s services to deteriorate so much, especially given the number of high profile child abuse cases that have featured in the national news in recent years. Effective work to protect children is difficult, expensive and unglamorous. Nevertheless it is one of the most important functions that the county council is responsible for.
I fear that the big Conservative majority at County Hall, and the fact that the same people have been in charge for so long, has led to complacency. It seems Lord Hanningfield and his colleagues have preferred to focus on high profile and exciting activities such as working in the House of Lords, launching a “Bank of Essex” and the Olympics instead of making sure that basic bread and butter services are delivered well: such as looking after our roads and pavements and keeping our children safe.
Also published today was the Audit Commission’s assessment of Epping Forest District Council [PDF copy here]. I’ve not yet studied it fully, but I recognise the overall picture it paints of the council. I’ve stood up in council meetings several times to express concern about how slowly the council moves sometimes. Hopefully now that the Audit Commission has pointed out the council’s slow rate of improvement we will see some action in response.