‘No inroads’ into care cost

Opposition councillors, like Tory leader Coun Tony Williams are critical of the cost of a report which recommends doing nothing to solve traffic problems on the Promenade.
Opposition councillors, like Tory leader Coun Tony Williams are critical of the cost of a report which recommends doing nothing to solve traffic problems on the Promenade.
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A row has broken out over the cost of looking after children in care after Blackpool’s Tory chief claimed figures show no inroads have been made into reducing the amount of money spent.

Tory group leader Tony Williams says he can no longer “support failure” on the back of the findings, which he claims shows it costs £15m a year to look after children in care.

And he believes no progress has been made on tackling the high numbers of children in care – and says his group has not been kept involved in the process.

But the council’s Labour leader Simon Blackburn refutes that, saying the Tories have been heavily involved in the process throughout.

Last autumn the Conservative group on Blackpool Council issued a joint statement with ruling group Labour following a critical Ofsted report of children’s services in the town.

Coun Williams said: “When the 2012 Ofsted report highlighted the dismal results in regard to looked after children in the resort, stretching back over several years, Coun Blackburn asked if I would join him in a cross party initiative to address the situation and we duly issued a joint statement to that effect.

“Since Coun Blackburn made that request to show support neither I nor any member of my group has been invited to any associated team meetings, focus groups or briefings in relation to looked after children.

“We also agreed that a further £500,000 should be allocated to engage more social workers and we were give assurances that in doing so the problem would be addressed.”

Coun Williams said figures he had been given showed it was costing the council £15m a year to look after children in care.

He added: “It is quite clear despite additional funds and extra social workers, this administration is failing to get to the root cause of this serious problem. It is obvious to everyone now that Coun Blackburn’s request for cross party support was to take the blame and the pressure away from the Labour administration.”

But Coun Blackburn said Conservative councillors were being kept involved in the process.

He said: “The Conservative group’s shadow cabinet member for children’s service sits on the Children’s Improvement Board, and the Conservative deputy leader co-chairs the working group we set up to deal with the Ofsted report.

“We have gone out of our way to involve them in our response to the situation.

“That they now claim not to be involved is frankly incredulous. Their ham-fisted attempt to gain political capital out of the pain and suffering of children is beneath contempt.”

Coun Ivan Taylor is jointly chairing the working group with Tory deputy leader Coun Don Clapham.

He said: “We chair the meetings alternatively. The committee recently commissioned a piece of work regarding the root causes of children going into care and a report is currently awaited to go to the next meeting in June. The work so far has been extremely productive and has been conducted on a non-party basis.”

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