A great deal has happened since I resumed the leadership of the council’s Conservative group in May. Without doubt the dominating factor has been the problems exposed in the city council’s Children’s Services department.
I am amazed that Coun Pat Smith, the portfolio holder for Children’s Services, remains in post.
The terrible Ofsted report in July highlighted the inadequacies of child safeguarding in the city. There have since been more revelations and the humiliation of Children’s Services being taken out of the council’s hands. This all serves to make Coun Smith’s position untenable. Her inexplicable continuation in post must bring the position of the Leader of the Council, Coun Paul Watson, into question.
His unswerving loyalty to a councillor who has not adequately fulfilled her duties is exposed as, at least, complacent about and, at worst, contemptuous of, the genuine concerns of Sunderland people and the interests of the city’s children.
The Ofsted report made further observations – almost totally negative – of the city’s Children’s Safeguarding Board and was less than complimentary about the police.
The other issue which refers back directly to the council was the failure of its members to scrutinise properly what was going on in Children’s Services.
Strange to note, therefore, that when the annual Scrutiny report was presented to the June council meeting only one member – my deputy Michael Dixon – raised, on behalf of the Conservative Group, concerns about the ineffectiveness of the council’s Labour-dominated scrutiny process. Just a few weeks later Ofsted exposed the system as being totally inadequate.T hat system is now being overhauled.
Although we have tried to be a constructive opposition, willing to work with Labour councillors in the city’s interests, we also promised the people of Sunderland to expose wasteful spending by this council. Examples include the mounting losses on car parking in the city and the spending of £2.4million of taxpayer’s money promoting a quality contracts system for buses knocked on the head by the Quality Contracts Board.
Coun Peter Wood,
Leader, Conservative Group, Sunderland City Council