Peterborough children’s services department minister staying put for now

Peterborough City Council cabinet member for children's services Sheila Scott. Photo: Rowland Hobson/Peterborough ET
Peterborough City Council cabinet member for children's services Sheila Scott. Photo: Rowland Hobson/Peterborough ET
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The cabinet member for Peterborough’s troubled children’s services department has responded to calls for her resignation by saying she will consider her position over the next 18 months.

Under pressure councillor Sheila Scott was called on to step down from her cabinet post by Independent councillor Michael Fletcher yesterday, after she appeared flustered when questioned about Peterborough City Council’s child poverty plan in a radio interview on Tuesday.

The Orton with Hampton councillor was interviewed after charity 4Children criticised a number of local authorities nationwide for not having in place a child poverty plan, with Cllr Scott unsure as to what stage her department’s plan is at.

It comes after a tumultuous year for Cllr Scott, who saw children’s services lambasted by Ofsted last September after it was found to be “inadequate” in seven out of nine child safeguarding categories, prompting the resignation of then children’s services director John Richards.

Since then, consultant director Malcolm Newsam has been brought in and improvements are being made.

But in response to the calls for her resignation, Cllr Scott said she would consider her options once she was satisfied children’s services was on an even keel.

She said: “It would be really de-stabilizing at this stage obviously to step down as children’s services is very complex, but when we have got that recovery done then I will look at my position.

“I have said from the very beginning that this is not a job that could be done quickly, it’s a minimum of an 18-month job as it’s not just about making the changes, it’s about making sure they are embedded in the service.

“I think that whatever happens we have an important programme of work to bring children’s social care up to an acceptable level and we have made a good start.”

Council leader Marco Cereste is expected to announce his cabinet re-shuffle in the next week, after the Conservatives regained control in last week’s elections.

Cllr Scott’s cabinet future does depend on the outcome of that re-shuffle, but Cllr Cereste said he would not discuss the negotiations at this stage.

Mr Richards resigned from his £135,000-a-year post after the publication of the Ofsted report on children’s services, with Cllr Scott saying at the time that she and other members of the council had been kept in the dark about the department’s performance.

Cllr Scott, speaking yesterday, said: “Previously I knew that things were not quite right but I am not an operational person, I am a cabinet member, that’s what the director of children’s services is there for. Of course I am pleased with the progress we are making now.

“It was a bit of a rollercoaster, one month seemed to be better but the next month performance was back down again.”

‘Mind went blank’ in interview

SHEILA Scott admitted her “mind went blank” in a BBC radio interview on Tuesday when she was quizzed about the council’s child poverty plan.

She seemed unsure as to what stage the council’s plan was at and why one had not been implemented sooner, but said she remembered the details when the interview ended.

She said: “I thought I was going to talk about child poverty but it was about a charity’s announcement about whether some local authorities had adopted a strategy.

“I’m really not happy with myself as my mind went completely blank.”