BREAKING: Wakefield Council cabinet member forced to stand down after shocking Ofsted inspection into children's services

Coun Olivia Rowley
Coun Olivia Rowley

The cabinet member for children and young people at Wakefield Council has been stripped of her post, days after serious failings in the authority's children's services were revealed.

Coun Olivia Rowley, who has held the position since May 2010, will be replaced as the council continues to deal with the aftermath of a damning report published by Ofsted which stated vulnerable children in the district were being put at risk.

Coun Margaret Isherwood

Coun Margaret Isherwood

The education watchdog found youngsters were not being safeguarded appropriately due to “significant weaknesses” in council services and that social workers, with high case loads, did not have the capacity to meet the needs of children and families.

At today's cabinet meeting it was announced that long serving councillor Olivia Rowley will be replaced by Councillor Margaret Isherwood with immediate effect.

Council leader Coun Peter Box said: "I have asked Coun Isherwood to step up as portfolio holder for children and young people and given her a very clear mandate: she must ensure there is a rapid pace of change.

“She will challenge progress and improvement to offer assurance that the actions being taken are delivering the right results.

“Furthermore I have asked that regular reports are brought back to council to report on progress.

“Residents have my assurance that these issues will be tackled.

"I along with member and officer colleagues, will do everything necessary to ensure that this council delivers the high standard of service our children, young people and their families deserve.”

Coun Box also thanked Coun Rowley who was first elected in as a councillor in 1980.

He said: “Whilst I recognise the contribution that Coun Rowley has made, new political direction and challenge is required."

Coun Rowley's seat in the Wakefield East ward is up for election this year and she is still expected to stand.

Ofsted inspectors, who visited in February, said politicians, the chief executive of the council and senior managers were “well aware of the issues” and had plans in place to address concerns.

But they warned: “There was insufficient capacity at all levels of the service, and the issues of poor practice were so widespread, that it will be a significant challenge for these plans to result in children being sufficiently safeguarded in the immediate future.”

Last week, the council's chief executive Merran McRae said a new corporate director for children and young people - Beate Wagner - had been appointed, after the previous director John Wilson left in November last year.

She said £1m had been allocated to implement an action plan of improvements and a further £3.5m had been invested into the children’s services annual budget.

Coun Isherwood currently chairs the council's Children, Young People and Skills Overview and Scrutiny Committee - and a new chair will now need to be appointed.

Exploring a new avenue for working