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MINISTERS EXPRESS CONCERN AT IMPACT OF SERIOUS SERVICE FAILURE AT WALSALL MBC

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JOINT STATEMENT BY NICK RAYNSFORD, MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THE REGIONS, JACQUI SMITH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL...
JOINT STATEMENT BY NICK RAYNSFORD, MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THE REGIONS, JACQUI SMITH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL CARE, AND STEPHEN TIMMS, MINISTER FOR SCHOOL STANDARDS, FOLLOWING THEIR MEETING WITH PARTY LEADERS FROM WALSALL COUNCIL:

'Yesterday we met with the leaders of the three main political parties on Walsall Council to discuss the council's imminent response to recent highly critical inspection reports about the council's education and social servicesand corporate governance.

'Our aim in meeting the leaders was to discuss the government's concerns about these matters and to urge the council to quickly put in hand the measures needed to address the weaknesses identified in the inspectors' reports. It is the council's responsibility to resolve these problems, but the government has a clear interest and will not hesitate to use the statutory intervention powers if the council fails to act quickly and constructively.

'We expressed concern at the impact of the serious service failures on local people, particularly vulnerable people like children and those people dependent on social services. We also discussed the concerns expressed by inspectors about the authority's lack of managerial capacity and experience to deal effectively with the challenges that it faced. The council must take swift and radical action to strengthen the authority's senior management capacity.

A Supervisory Board was put in place earlier this year to support Walsall in tackling the corporate governance weaknesses identified. We welcome the assurances given by the three leaders that they would continue to work closely with the Supervisory Board to implement the recommendations of inspectors and consultants. We also welcome their agreement to implement the recommendations of the PriceWaterhouse Coopers report on outsourcing additional education functions.

We await further advice from the Audit Commission and the Supervisory Board and will keep the position under review. We expect to see significant progress on all the matters identified by inspectors.

* See LGCnetfor Walsall's response.

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