Essex Tories fail on safeguarding children

December 18, 2008 12:41 PM
Cllr Tom Smith-Hughes

Cllr Tom Smith-Hughes, Lib Dem Leader on Essex County Council

The ruling Conservatives at Essex County Council have failed to provide effective safeguards for children and have been given a damning 'inadequate' grade by the government's inspectors - not even meeting minimum requirements. The inspectors concluded that the council's recruitment and vetting of staff working with children was poor and that it failed to learn from its mistakes when dealing with complaints.

Only seven other local authorities in the country scored as low as Essex and one of those was Haringey.

Speaking about the report, Essex County Council Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Tom Smith-Hughes said:

"This is an appalling report for any council to receive and there is no way of spinning a good story out of it. Of the seven categories marked by the inspectors, six of them received an inadequate or poor mark, right at the bottom of the scale. The public needs believable reassurances that these serious shortcomings are being addressed as a priority.

"The Conservatives have spent the past year swaggering around the county and the country consumed with a stream of ridiculous headline grabbing gimmicks. They've bragged about their plans to recruit the runner up of the BBC's 'The Apprentice' show that came to nothing, they've hosted conferences that achieved practically nothing and they've showcased its communications department. Yet they failed to do the one thing that the public expects of them - look out for the most vulnerable members of our community, our children.

"The Conservatives have become obsessed with their own image, and drunk on their own sense of self importance, they have allowed themselves to believe their own deluded publicity that they are the best council in the country. In their quest to pose for the most number of photo-opportunities, they have forgotten to concentrate on why they're here. They have neglected to provide the most basic services and requirements of a council, they have treated taxpayers money with disdain, they have failed the residents of Essex

"It is now the mark of this Conservative administration, that it values its own image over the lives of vulnerable children."