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Tower Hamlets mayor accused of letting children down after damning Ofsted inspection

PUBLISHED: 13:56 09 April 2017 | UPDATED: 11:41 10 April 2017

Mayor John Biggs

Mayor John Biggs

Archant

Opponents have accused Tower Hamlets’ Labour Mayor of failing the children of London’s East End after Friday’s damning Ofsted Report into the council’s children’s services.

Tower Hamlets CouncilTower Hamlets Council

Ofsted inspectors found a lack of leadership and direction with “widespread and serious failures for the children who need help and protection”.

A lack of understanding in private fostering arrangements, for example, failed to consider whether children had been trafficked or abandoned by their parents.

John Biggs admitted to the East London Advertiser on Friday that the situation Ofsted found was “clearly unacceptable,” and was making it clear to his chief executive and the Children’s Services director to take immediate action.”

Much of the blame was put by Labour on the previous administration under the now-banned ex-mayor Lutfur Rahman for his “disastrous merging” of children’s and adults’ services in 2012.

Cllr Rabina KhanCllr Rabina Khan

But remnants of Rahman’s former administration still on the council, known as the People’s Alliance, put the blame on the mayor’s budget cuts.

“The current administration has failed miserably in providing sufficient oversight,” Alliance group leader Rabina Khan told the Advertiser.

“They have made avoidable and politically-motivated cuts to vital preventative and universal services causing instability and uncertainty.”

Cllr Khan, Rahman’s former cabinet member for housing who ran for mayor herself in 2015 when she was defeated by Labour’s candidate Biggs, pointed out a “spike in referrals” in 2016—a year into Labour’s administration—often led to “no further action” being taken to safeguard children.

Cllr Rabina Khan running foir mayor in 2015 with backing from banned Lutfur RahmanCllr Rabina Khan running foir mayor in 2015 with backing from banned Lutfur Rahman

“There seems to be a link between this spike in referrals and cuts to preventative and universal services,” she added.

The Conservative opposition group accused Labour of complacency with the departure of government commissioners from the town hall, which it said exposed the belief that “the job was done to clean up Tower Hamlets after the misdeeds of former Mayor Rahman”.

Ofsted’s report was a ‘wake-up call’ that was needed, as Labour was “lazily excusing itself through reference to the Rahman regime” or to government spending limits.

Tory cllr Julia Dockerill, accusing Labour of bureaucracy ineffective monitoring, said: “The illusion of scrutiny distracts from any strategic focus on outcomes. Committees are a whirlwind of words, stats, figures, presentations, reams of paperwork and confected political rows.

“This ‘chronic drift and delay’ is unacceptable when it comes to making decisions about vulnerable children.”

A call was made by the Alliance group urging the whole council to “come together regardless of political differences” to rebuild a service that children and families can depend on.

Tower Hamlets has only just got out of ‘special measures’ with government commissioners keeping check on spending, having left the town hall last week. Four commissioners were sent in led by Sir Ken Knight in December, 2014, who found lack of transparency and accountability. Labour regained control of the authority in 2015.

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