Councillor tasked with over seeing children's services loses post after damming Ofsted inspection

Councillor Pat Smith has lost her place in Sunderland City Council's cabinet.
Councillor Pat Smith has lost her place in Sunderland City Council's cabinet.
0
Have your say

A councillor who came under fire from inspectors for poor leadership which led to failings in the care of Sunderland's most vulnerable children has lost her cabinet post.

Labour member for Silksworth Councillor Pat Smith will no longer be a member of Sunderland City Council's cabinet.

Sunderland City Council is setting up a trust to take over the running of children's services in the city.

Sunderland City Council is setting up a trust to take over the running of children's services in the city.

It is understood she will take up a role where she will sit on a scrutiny committee of children's services.

She, along with senior members of the Labour party, were not available for comment this morning.

The cabinet post will be taken up by Washington South Councillor Louise Farthing.

Wearside’s Liberal Democrats have welcomed the publication of a document which indicates that Sunderland Council Leader Paul Watson is planning to replace Councillor Pat Smith as the portfolio holder for children’s services.

Leader of the Conservative group, Peter Wood, has welcomed the appointment of Councillor Louise Farthing as cabinet member for children's services.

Leader of the Conservative group, Peter Wood, has welcomed the appointment of Councillor Louise Farthing as cabinet member for children's services.

Conservatives in the city, who have previously called for Coun Smith to step down, have also said they back the new appointment.

Coun Smith has faced calls to resign from her role following the publication of Ofsted's inspection on the department and the council's children safeguarding work last July.

It graded the authority as inadequate, raising poor leadership of senior officers and councillors as an issue among a host of concerns.

A commissioner was appointed by the Government to oversee an overhaul of the services, with a trust now being set up after Prime Minister David Cameron highlighted it as one of the country's worst.

Millfield Councillor Niall Hodson has said he hopes the changes will improve Sunderland's children's services.

Millfield Councillor Niall Hodson has said he hopes the changes will improve Sunderland's children's services.

Councillor Smith has previously told the Echo she would resign if the leader of the council and Labour group Councillor Paul Watson wanted her to.

Coun Watson has said he believed Coun Smith, who was in the post when the services received better gradings, was the best person to oversee a host of improvements drawn up.

These include recruiting new social workers, four new directors and investment of millions of pounds more into the department.

Niall Hodson, the newly elected Liberal Democrat councillor for Millfield ward, said:“It seems that ruling councillors have finally realised that new political leadership is required in the children’s services department, alongside the new staff and outside experts that have been brought into improve things.

"And not before time.

“Many parents were rightly horrified that leadership in this vital portfolio was not reassigned following the damning report into failures of management at all levels, and it is baffling that this decision is only being taken now.

"I hope that the new leadership – along with the measures being put in place by the government, staff and the voluntary trust – will bring about the improvements that are desperately needed so that young people and families in Sunderland can get the help and support they need.”

Councillor Peter Wood, leader of the Conservative group on the council, said: "I made the point last summer that Pat Smith should resign over the debacle of children's services and safeguarding and I think this is belated recognition of that.

"I think Councillor Louise Farthing is a capable member of the council and I have more faith in her than I do in Pat Smith.

"The Conservatives want to work with all the right-thinking members of the council and I'm sure that we want children's services to go from being the worst to being the best."

The leader of council, deputy leader of the council and the five other cabinet positions are all due to stay in the same hands.

All 75 city councillors will be asked to ‘note’ the leader’s choices at the meeting.

The papers for the council's annual meeting state Councillor Watson will remain as leader, Councillor Harry Truman as deputy leader, Councillor Mel Speding cabinet secretary, Councillor Graeme Miller as portfolio holder of health, housing and adult services, Councillor John Kelly as cabinet member for public health, wellness and culture, Councillor Michael Mordey as city services and Councillor Celia Gofton as responsive services and customer care.