Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire say that Ofsted’s judgement that the council’s Children’s Services are “inadequate” could have been avoided had opportunities to address failings not been missed because of a “don’t tell, don’t ask” culture.
Labour councillor Gareth Manson says that back in 2014 he and his Labour colleagues had proposed that the Council subject itself to a ‘mock’ Ofsted inspection, but were dissuaded from pursuing this on the grounds that the full inspection was due imminently.
Nine months later, when no such Ofsted inspection had materialised, Councillor Manson and his Labour colleagues once again proposed a ‘mock’ Ofsted inspection. This proposal was blocked on the alleged grounds that the cost and the time demands on staff would be too high, a claim that Labour strongly disputed. The true cost of not taking these opportunities is now clear in the conclusions of the report just published.
Councillor Manson says:
“Had either of these mock inspections taken place the deficiencies in vital services that Ofsted have now uncovered would have been exposed and dealt with sooner. This would have resulted in children receiving a service which met their needs and the Council would have been better placed to protect them. It would have also avoided the stress and strain which Ofsted’s monitoring regime will now put on staff and the damage done to the reputation of South Gloucestershire Council.
The amount of information and detail being shared with elected members has clearly been inadequate and my experience is that many councillors have been reluctant to challenge and scrutinise what they are told. The relationship between councillors and managers has become too cosy, leading to a ‘don’t tell, don’t ask’ culture.
I am concerned that the immediate response from senior levels in the Council to this damning report seems to be that South Gloucestershire is somehow less inadequate than other inadequate authorities. This defensive attitude and culture really needs to change if there is to be any meaningful and sustainable turn around in the Council’s performance.”