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Corporate Assessment and Joint Area Review for Wokingham Borough Council - Lib-Dem Response

January 20, 2009 12:00 PM

Wokingham Borough Council has received the damning verdict of two important Government inspections that assess how well the needs of the borough's residents are met: the Audit Commission's Corporate Assessment, and OFSTED's Joint Area Review of all children's services.

Councillor Prue Bray (Leader of the Lib Dem Councillor Group and councillor for Winnersh ward) said, "These reports are a wake-up call to the Tory executive. The Council's rating has gone down from 3 stars to 2 stars, which is described as 'at only minimum requirements'. The Council is going backwards compared to other councils, and huge changes must take place to stop the Council sliding any further.

"The most damning assessment is that the council's arrangements for 'safeguarding children and young people' are inadequate - it received the lowest score, just 1 point, putting Wokingham in the bottom 9 authorities in the country for protecting children. This is obviously a huge concern to us all, and one we expect the executive to take very seriously indeed. They must act immediately to protect our vulnerable children.

"The reports also highlight the Council's failure to ensure 'fair and equitable access to services' for all our residents and flag up the need for more openness. The Liberal Democrats have frequently drawn attention to the atmosphere of secrecy in the Council and we hope that the Leader of the Council will now act to make the Council more inclusive and more open. He has said he is committed to this, but not enough has changed since he took over the role in May.

"Liberal Democrat councillors are keen to work with the Tory administration to put things right, and a good first step would be to include us in the Children and Young People's Strategic Partnership so that we can contribute towards properly protecting our children and young people, an area in which the Conservative administration has shown itself to be 'inadequate'. We should also be allowed to join the Local Strategic Partnership to improve inclusion and openness and to stop the secrecy that currently surrounds Council work.

"All councillors, whatever their political party, need to work together drawing up action plans that will put the Council on the right track. The Council Leader must use all the resources at his disposal to make the right decisions so that the Council starts to improve its performance."

Excerpts from the JOINT AREA REVIEW report:

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§ Fundamental aspects of safeguarding are inadequate, including key elements of children's social care.

§ Important weaknesses:

o Significant weaknesses in the management of the Local Safeguarding Children Board. The effective of the work of the LSCB is inadequate.

o Safe recruitment processes not followed consistently.

o Lack of systematic auditing, evaluation and analysis of safeguarding.

o Poor quality of child protection work and timeliness of reviews.

o Insufficient social worker capacity, high staff turnover and over-reliance on agency staff.

o Insufficient prioritisation of equality and diversity.

§ The unsatisfactory quality of social care recording, combined with an inadequate electronic database and recording system, creates significant risk.

Excerpts from the CORPORATE ASSESSMENT report:

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§ The Council's approach to ensuring fair and equitable access to services is inadequate.

§ Initiatives have had little impact on reducing the fear of crime, which remains disproportionately high.

§ Limited progress has been made in balancing the housing market and securing affordable housing to help met housing needs in the area.

§ There remains more to do to tackle congestion and increase use of public transport.

§ Areas for improvement:

o Carry out work to understand better the needs of all communities.

o Use this understanding to tackle inequalities.

o The Council should develop a culture of inclusion and openness.