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Notices to improve slammed

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The government’s improvement notices have been slammed as “surplus to requirements” as news of the first two councils to be hit with them has emerged.

David Shakespeare (Con), who chairs the Local Government Association improvement board, said the notices, which became law in May, appeared to be more about central government posturing than anything else.

Salford City Council was handed the first notice after concern over work rates and staffing in its children’s services department.

Low rates of initial assessments for children in need were reported, while comparatively low numbers of social workers led to some children not being assigned their own dedicated social worker.

Just under three weeks’ later, on 23 June, Leicester City Council was handed its improvement notice following criticisms about its educational achievements and the branding of its teenage pregnancy strategy as “inadequate”.

Both notices warn that failure to comply with an agreed improvement plan by stipulated dates could lead to children’s secretary Ed Balls invoking statutory powers.

But Cllr Shakespeare said this week that improvement notices were no substitute for the right package of support, which local government was perfectly able to provide for
itself.

“They’re surplus to requirements, and there would be better results with a proper partnership approach,” he said.

“The government is being a bit too macho, and with a bit more co-operation local government itself could put in the right packages of support. I don’t think it needs Big Brother coming in heavy handed."

“Local government is self-improving at a faster rate than central government.”
Salford children’s services lead John Warmisham (Lab) insisted no children had been put at risk. He said an improvement plan was in place and more social workers were
being recruited.

At Leicester, interim director of children and young people’s services Andrew Bunyan said he was expecting extra funding and resources would accompany the notice.

“We are optimistic we will be able to meet the improvement targets,” he said.

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