A new commissioner set to be appointed by the government to oversee children’s services in Northamptonshire will help shape how services are run in the proposed new unitary authorities.
The county council was told yesterday by Ofsted that the safety of hundreds of children in its care was ‘unknown’ in a damning assessment from the watchdog.
Highlighting the ‘significant declines’ in the service over the last two years, the report led to Communities Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, telling parliament that the government was minded to appoint a Children’s Commissioner.
The county council already has two government-appointed commissioners, in Brian Roberts and Tony McArdle, running the rule over the county’s management.
But a joint letter from Mr Brokenshire and Education Secretary Damien Hinds MP reveals that the children’s commissioner, expected to be Malcolm Newsam CBE, will not only attempt to steady the ship at the moment but also help in shaping the future delivery of children’s services when an expected reorganisation of local government in the county takes place in 2020.
The Government is likely to agree to proposals, which it heavily steered itself, to replace the county council and seven district and borough councils with two new supersize unitary authorities for the North and the West of the county.
The letter, addressed to leader Matt Golby, says: “The Children’s Services Commissioner would be appointed on a non-executive basis and have a remit to issue any necessary instructions to the authority to secure adequate performance in children’s services.
“However, the operational and strategic accountability for the delivery of these services would remain with Northamptonshire County Council until any future decision by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on local government reorganisation in Northamptonshire is implemented.
“We would also see a role for the Children’s Services Commissioner in bringing together the views of all parties about the future delivery of Northamptonshire’s children’s services should local government be reorganised in Northamptonshire. We hope that this would help the council to build on discussions already taking place locally on this question.”
The letter, also sent to the current commissioners, cabinet member for children Councillor Victoria Perry, chief executive Theresa Grant and local MPs, adds that the government would ‘expect the council to work closely with the Children’s Services Commissioner to decide the best way of delivering children’s services in Northamptonshire in the future’.
Mr Newsam has previously worked as an executive commissioner for children’s services in Rotherham, after being appointed by the government there following the uncovering of a child sex abuse scandal.