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Aug 24 2013

Bill Writes: It’s another feeble excuse from Husain Akhtar

bill_stephensonCllr Bill Stephenson sent us a copy of a letter destined for the local papers pointing out, it would seem, yet more failings from our least-favourite Councillor, Husain Akhtar.

Bill writes…

In a recent letter Cllr Akhtar claimed that the Council had let our schools down. The most recent statistics show that 92 percent of Harrow schools have been deemed good or outstanding. Come on Cllr Akhtar!

In his letter (I resigned prior to inspection, August 15) in response to my letter showing how Cllr Akhtar let Grange Primary School down, he comes out with the most feeble excuse that he resigned as Chair of Governors two months before the damning OFSTED inspection occurred. This mess is longstanding and did not just happen in two months. The truth is Cllr Akhtar jumped before being pushed.

In his letter Cllr Akhtar asks about how I exercised my responsibilities as Leader insofar as Childrens’ Services were concerned.

I can only reply briefly. When I took over as Leader of the Council in 2010 we found a Childrens’ Services Department in disarray with a budget deficit of two million pounds which we turned around. The Looked After Childrens Service was reformed saving hundreds of thousands of pounds and the cutting edge and much praised New Operating Model was introduced. I personally introduced regular quarterly meetings between myself and the Chief Executive with the Chair of the Local Childrens’ Safeguarding Board and the Corporate Director for Children’s Services. This ensured that for the first time – yes the first time – the Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive took formal responsibility for safeguarding children both as advocates and as critical friends. I also ensured that all members of the Cabinet were regularly trained on safeguarding issues as well as making such training compulsory for all councillors.

As far as the recent OFSTED inspection is concerned Cllr Akhtar knows the bar has been very significantly raised and, for example, one third of all local authorities have been found inadequate under the new regime! Of course I was disappointed that we received a grade of adequate. We were very aware that we had longstanding problems concerning Childrens’ Social Care Quality Assurance. We were totally up front and honest about this with OFSTED. These problems by their nature take a long time to resolve. Significant changes to improve the service have taken place and continue to take place as OFSTED acknowledges: ‘It is too early to evaluate the impact of these changes but initial signs are encouraging and staff and partners and partners and commitment for the new model.’

I hope that Cllr Akhtar will stop playing petty politics with young people’s future. I recommend him to read the Council’s innovative, exciting and excellent Improvement Plan,’The Child’s Journey’ and he will understand why the Council is asking OFSTED to come back as soon as is practical that the ‘encouraging signs’ have become reality.

Bill Stephenson (Cllr)
(Leader of the Council 2010 – 2012)

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