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A leading Labour councillor has questioned whether the response of Conservative South Gloucestershire Council to significant weakness in its children’s services is adequate.

Late in December 2017 Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission judged that there are significant weaknesses in services for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). They instructed the Council and local NHS to produce a Written Statement of Action to address these.
 
Councillor Gareth Manson, who leads on children’s and skills issues for Labour, says that this is the latest in a line of official assessments that have pointed to service weaknesses. Back in February 2017 Ofsted rated the council’s children’s services as inadequate; a follow-up monitoring letter issued to the Council last month stated that ‘The pace of improvement in South Gloucestershire children’s services is too slow. Children in South Gloucestershire continue to experience systemic delays in receiving the help that they need.
 
At the council’s Cabinet meeting this week, Councillor Manson asked the Conservative decision-makers how their plans to deal with the latest criticism were any different from previous attempts to address weaknesses.
 

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Councillor Manson says:


“This latest Written Statement of Action is similar in tone and content to the Action Plan which was produced when Ofsted judged children’s services to be inadequate in February 2017.
 
Einstein defined insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. Parents, carers and other residents will be frustrated that the ruling Conservatives seem to be doing just this.
 
I believe that more profound questions need to be asked and a more robust response is required, because our children and young people deserve much better.”

Labour questions approach to weaknesses in children's services

A leading Labour councillor has questioned whether the response of Conservative South Gloucestershire Council to significant weakness in its children’s services is adequate. Late in December 2017 Ofsted and the...

The Leader of South Gloucestershire’s Labour councillors has welcomed a decision not to support a highly-controversial route for a new junction off the M4 motorway, but has warned that this has not killed off the option completely.

The council’s Cabinet decided this afternoon to recommend a ‘western’ option for a possible junction 18A near Emersons Green rather than alternative eastern routes near Pucklechurch.

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Addressing the Cabinet meeting, Councillor Pat Rooney said:

“I have long supported the principle of a new junction off the M4 to improve access to high-value jobs in our area. That support was always based on a route direct to the Science Park, so I was shocked when the alternative eastern options appeared last summer.

We know how unpopular the eastern alternative has been with local residents, and I share their view. I am concerned that this option would channel more traffic through Kingswood, further reducing the air quality here, which previous reports to Cabinet have highlighted is among the worst in our area. I am unconvinced that there would be no air quality impact.

Obviously I urge the Cabinet to back the preference for the always-intended western option. Given that the western option scores so much better in meeting the scheme objectives, a cynic might ask whether the alternatives were put in simply for Cabinet to ride to the rescue and claim some sort of victory.

But any decision today does not kill off the eastern option. Cabinet is endorsing a preference but the final decision rests with government. The un-preferred eastern option still rests on the table for the Minister to decide. I therefore urge the Conservatives to apply pressure on their friends in government to kill off the eastern option at the earliest opportunity.”

Labour warns route option not killed off

The Leader of South Gloucestershire’s Labour councillors has welcomed a decision not to support a highly-controversial route for a new junction off the M4 motorway, but has warned that this...

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have attacked the Conservative government’s funding cuts and the Tory council’s secrecy at the Council’s annual budget-setting meeting today.

Conservative councillors voted through their budget which approved £36 million of unspecified cuts over the three years from 2019 to 2022. The precise nature of these cuts, and their impact on services, charges and staffing, remains unclear, despite Labour tabling formal questions before Christmas to obtain precisely this level of detail.

The response given to those questions was that “directors are working confidentially with the administration”.

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Labour Group Leader Councillor Pat Rooney says:

“Our communities and residents are suffering because of the Tories’ austerity ideology and their obvious disdain for local government over the past 8 years. Officers reported that between 2016 and 2020, local government’s funding will reduce by £4.9 billion or 68%.

In South Gloucestershire we now face an additional £36 million of cuts on top of the millions already stripped out of the budget and the hundreds of jobs lost in recent years. This will pile on the pain, as the new savings programmes also seek to maximise current income streams and state that the council will no longer be able to do as much.”

 

Criticising the Tory Council’s approach she adds:

“The Tories have frozen us out and instructed directors not to tell us anything useful. In the past, even under Tory control, we have had access to much more budget information and the broad range of options.

They are fostering a culture of concealment at the council. When we question the Council’s Tory leadership about the proposed savings they tell us that further work is being done and will be reported on at some later date.

Instead of answering the big questions, they seek to divert attention with a handful of ‘growth’ items. But close inspection of the papers shows their new fund for Bristol Aerospace visits being removed from the budget after just one year, as is much of the new money for the local Council for Voluntary Service.”

Labour attacks budget cuts and secrecy

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have attacked the Conservative government’s funding cuts and the Tory council’s secrecy at the Council’s annual budget-setting meeting today.

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