Northants County Council set to abandon plans for separate children's services organisation

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Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) is set to abandon plans to create a separate organisation to run its children's services.

Financial costs and the creation of a unitary authority system have been given as reasons by the under-pressure county council to halt long-held plans to create the arms length children’s services organisation.

The suggestion comes after separate companies set up by NCC in recent years such as adult services provider Olympus Care and health body First for Wellbeing have been brought back in-house after becoming no longer viable.

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A report by outgoing head of children services Lesley Hagger outlines the reasons for the u-turn.

The report states: “Decisions relating to how any new unitary authority will want children services to be delivered is not known and will not be known for some time.

“Further it could be financially costly to continue with the development of the alternative delivery vehicle (ADM) at this time, for while the development is being funded through the DfR Innovation Grant any costs associated with dismantling a newly established ADM and transferring staff to the new councils would have to be met as part of establishing those new unitary arrangements.”

The county council will cease to exist by 2020 as the authority and the other seven councils in the Northants are currently putting together a bid to create two new unitary authorities for the north and west.

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The unitary situation has been imposed by central government following an inspection which was highly critical of the governance of NCC.

The two new unitaries will both provide children’s services as part of their remit.

Children’s services at the county council have been rated as requiring improvement by Ofsted since 2016.

A focused visit by inspectors last month (May) recognised that there had been positive improvements but said that ‘caseloads remain too high’ and the ‘quality of assessments and plans is too variable’.

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Lesley Hagger, who has been in post since 2016 and has been praised by councillors, announced last month that she will be leaving NCC and taking up a post at Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council in the West Midlands.

The NCC cabinet will decide tomorrow (June 12) whether to put on hold the decision.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said the separate companies were brought back in-house because they were ‘failing to deliver’.

We are happy to clarify that services were being delivered and that the reason they were brought back in-house was because the amount of money the county council was able to give them was diminished.

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