Friday brief: ‘It's outrageous’
Appointment of former county council cabinet member to chair new children’s scrutiny committee is branded 'outrageous' plus other news from across the country
A councillor who presided over Northamptonshire’s children’s services when it first went into decline a decade ago, is being recommended for appointment as chair of the new children’s services scrutiny committee.
Cllr Andrew Grant made a name for himself back in the early 2010s when he was cabinet member for children’s services, at the former county council. Under his tenure the service went from performing well to inadequate in 2013, some believe as a consequence of his decision to make a series of cuts to middle management, which saw experienced social workers leave the authority. The service then went into decline, from which it has never recovered.
Now a decade on, Cllr Grant, who represents the Hackleton and Grange Park ward, has been appointed by West Northamptonshire Council to chair the new children’s services scrutiny committee. The committee will hold the independent children’s trust to account plus look at how education’s services - which are still managed by the unitary authority - are run.
Labour Cllr Danielle Stone, who had put herself forward for the role given to Grant, said his proposed appointment was ‘outrageous’.
“I’m completely gobsmacked,” she said.
“Of all the people in the world, why has he been put there? It just shows that they [the cabinet] are not taking it seriously”
Children’s services are still under performing, despite being run by an independent trust. An Ofsted rating says the service requires improvement, but a more recent inspection of the fostering service, was rated as inadequate. Both leaderships of the North and West unitary have called for the trust to make quick improvements.
Cllr John McGhee, who is on North Northamptonshire Council, was Labour opposition leader at the time of Grant’s changes to the children’s services a decade ago.
“He brought ideas up from London and got rid of most of our experienced staff. That was the downfall of children’s services and the ultimate downfall of the county if you ask me.
Cllr McGhee says the opposition told Cllr Grant ‘time after time’ about the damage his proposals would do, but said the warnings went unheeded.
In 2013 the authority received an inadequate Ofsted inspection. It then had to plough millions into trying to get the service up to scratch once again - spending millions on agency staff as it was unable to recruit enough experienced permanent staff.
In 2015 Matt Bowmer, the council’s chief finance officer warned the authority of the damage the overspend was doing to the authority, which kept taking money from its reserves, but it continued to do so. By 2018 it had gone bust and the government ordered two unitary councils be created to replace it.
Cllr Grant told NN Journal rather than his actions leading to problems within children’s services, that he made the right decisions.
He was cabinet member for children’s services from 2009 to 2013. In 2013 a damning Ofsted said there was a legacy of children who had experienced chronic harm due to the failings of the service. It said:
“Local leaders express commitments to sustaining and improving the quality of protection and services to children and young people. However, there is limited evidence of this being clearly articulated, effectively communicated, implemented well or evaluated for impact.”
Cllr Grant says it was his decision to agree to Ofsted doing the inspection.
“I genuinely believe at the time I made the right decision to allow Ofsted to do the important initial investigation - we didn’t need to do that. Who knows where we would be now if that inspection had not happened.
“For ten years, the only people [sic] who know what happened is me. My conscience is clear.”
He said the matter in hand now is where children’s services stand today. He said the cost was the biggest concern and would be scrutinised by his committee, if he is elected as chair.
“I have no agenda but to go in there and do my best,” he said.
This year the trust has gone £20m over its budget - which has had to be paid by the two unitary authorities.
Cllr Grant’s appointment as chair along with the other chair’s of the council’s various committees will be voted on by the full council next Thursday (May 18).
News in brief:
The funeral of murdered Northampton teenager Rohan ‘Fred’ Shand, 16, will take place this morning at All Saints Church in Northampton.
This family spoke for the first time this week, issuing a statement through the police’s media office. They said:
“Fred was a loving and kind person, who was respectful to people of all ages. He was also such a witty person who knew exactly what to say or do to put a big smile on our faces and was just a fun person to be around.
“He was like his dad’s fifth sense as Fred was the one who took care of all online activities, from ordering the shopping to helping with banking. But this was just one way he helped his dad as we feel his loss in so many ways, missing him every day.
“Fred was a typical teenage boy who loved his music and took great pride in his clothes. He enjoyed playing on his X-Box and was a talented footballer, but he also enjoyed spending time with his family – going on long walks with his dad and cousins and family movie nights.
“We have so many memories of our Fred, but the one which his dad cherishes the most is the time they spent together, riding to school and town. They would share long conversations about the future, which sadly will no longer become a reality.”
The teenager’s funeral service will be followed by a private burial at Kingsthorpe cemetary.
More than 80 people have objected to the proposed demolition of Overstone Hall, near Northampton. The owners of the Grade II listed property, Barry Howard Homes, said last month that hopes for a “miraculous restoration” will not happen.
Residents of West Northamptonshire have sent objections ahead of any planning decision being made, with one praising the building as a “beacon of history”. West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) posted the comments on its website. They include one objector opposing the demolition as ‘barbaric’.
The builder bought the hall and 35 acres of land around it in 2015. The company said it held ‘absolute intentions’ of restoring it but that its plan is now no longer viable.
Some former pupils and a former teacher of a boarding school at the hall objected to the building being fully demolished. One said:
“I was honoured to teach for many years at this wonderful building.
“It has beautiful history and wonderful memories for so many people and if restored will provide a wonderful experience of historic Northamptonshire for future generations. We need to celebrate and secure our beautiful past culture.”
WNC will decide the application in due course.
Report by Nathan Briant, Local democracy reporter
Cllr Matt Keane will be the new leader of the Labour opposition group on North Northamptonshire Council. He will replace Cllr John McGhee who did not stand for re-election and will return to the backbenches. Cllr Keane’s deputy will be Cllr Leanne Buckingham.
A woman stabbed at least seven times by her ex-partner has won the right to sue Northamptonshire Police after she said it did not do enough to protect her.
Esengul Woodcock was attacked by Riza Guzelyurt in March 2015 and he was jailed for life for her attempted murder in 2016.
Ms Woodcock’s neighbour made a 999 call to the police, telling them that Guzelyurt was loitering outside her house about 12 minutes before she was attacked, but officers did not pass the information onto the victim. Guzelyurt had been the subject of police calls in the days prior to the attack.
At a previous hearing in 2021, Ms Woodcock’s claim was dismissed with costs. A judge found the police did not owe the woman a duty of care, did not breach any owed they might be found to have owed and did not cause the injury in any event.
But allowing an appeal against that verdict, High Court judge Mr Justice Ritchie said a failure of the police force to ‘protect her in the gap before the allocated police officer arrived’ at her home was a breach of its duty of care.
He found it was ‘reasonably foreseeable’ to the force that Ms Woodcock was at “high risk of serious injury” given Guzelyurt had tried to storm the woman’s house, had threatened to kill her and attack her children. He had also breached bail and was ‘focussed’ on attacking her home.
The neighbour’s warning also made the possibility the woman could be attacked ‘immediate and obvious’. The judge added the cost of passing on the ‘vital’ information to the woman from the 999 call would have been ‘infinitesimal and there was ‘no good reason…to keep it secret’.
“There was no good reason given in evidence to keep it secret. There were very good reasons to inform [Ms Woodcock]. The only person, other than police officers, who needed to know, was [Ms Woodcock],” Mr Justice Ritchie said.
A Northamptonshire Police spokesperson said:
“Northamptonshire Police is aware of the recent High Court appeal ruling, but as the case is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
Report by Nathan Briant
🍰 A historical walk around Grafton Regis is happening tomorrow. Starting at the village hall at 2.30pm, the guided walk will include tea and cake. Cost is £9.50 for adults (concessions for children) and to book call Kathy on 0791 0092132.
🎭 As part of the month-long Wellingborough stories festival, GLJ Theatre will be staging Our Welly story at the Kingsway Centre, from 6.45pm on Sunday. The stories of young people living in Wellingborough today will be told through movement. Entry is free.
🍦Kettering Food festival is happening in the town’s Market Place, tomorrow from 10am to 5pm.
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