The sacked children’s director at Somerset County Council has said he wasn’t to blame for slow progress in improving services. Labour says his comments are another sign of poor morale and fractured management at County Hall under Tory rule.
Peter Lewis was hired in 2013 through an employment agency at an annual cost of £320,000 with a brief to improve falling standards following an inadequate Ofsted report. His contract was terminated on October 17th. The council said progress on improving children’s homes and children’s centre had been “too little too slow.”
Row highlights pressure to cut public services
But Mr Lewis hit back, telling the magazine Children and Young People Now: “If not everyone is behind efforts to improve, it gets to be more and more difficult. The IT systems were never where they needed to be. It was such an arcane piece of technology.”
The county council has rejected Mr Lewis’s arguments. But whatever the rights or wrongs of an individual case, the row highlights the pressure to cut public services, the loss of experienced officers, and an atmosphere that has lowered morale among county council staff.
Mr Lewis’s departure means Somerset is looking for its sixth director of children’s services in as many years – the highest turnover rate of all the local authorities in England. Earlier this year, the chief executive, Sheila Wheeler left her job, after a process estimated to have cost the county £115,000
Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Bridgwater and West Somerset, Mick Lerry said:
“Peter Lewis was drafted in on an extremely high salary, when other public sector workers had experienced cuts in their pay and some loss of employment. Children’s services are so important and once again the Tory leadership of the county council have made an expensive mistake, while allowing a valuable public service to still be at risk”.