Peterborough Children’s Services in Crisis Appoints £1000 a Day Interim

08:08 Tuesday 22nd November 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: No council employee is worth £1000 a day. That’s according to the Deputy Leader of the Independent councillors on Peterborough City Council. John Fox’s comments came after plans were unveiled to pay the new Interim Director of Peterborough’s Children’s Services over £1000 a day. He’s been billed as the new “super consultant”, and will be in charge of sorting out the Council’s failing Children’s Services, which was labelled so bad by an Ofsted report that the Director of the Department John Richards was forced to resign. Here’s what Councillor Fox said earlier. (TAPE)
JOHN FOX: No. It’s just completely out of proportion. Surely we can find somebody somewhere in this country that can do the job for a lot less money. He probably is, and most definitely probably is the most experienced person in his trade. But £1000 a day, when we’re laying people off at work, it doesn’t seem quite right. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Although John Fox did also say that it’s very difficult to put a price on a child’s life and safety. And we also heard from Jonathan Isaby, the Political Director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. He said whilst it’s impossible to put a price on the life of a child, he thinks it’s an eye-watering amount of money. (TAPE)
JONATHAN ISABY: To make an appointment which is going to cost almost double what the previous incumbent of that post had, just seems incredibly bad value for the money. And not least because of course this is only a temporary thing. He’s going to come in and within a year he’s going to be gone, and  you’re going to have to find someone else to do the job. I think it would be far better value for taxpayers’ money if somebody were to be appointed now to do the job for the long term, so that you can have continuity in that department, which clearly needs sorting out. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well with me in the studio is Sheile Scott, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Peterborough City Council. Morning.
PAUL STAINTON: Here we go again. We’re talking about it again.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s a very important subject. A very emotive subject, and a very important subject to get right. But, is it any price we’re prepared to pay, to look after Children’s Services?
SHEILA SCOTT: This is probably the most important decision that the Council will make in the coming year. I have to say that.
PAUL STAINTON: Would we pay any price, whatever the cost, to get the right man in?
SHEILA SCOTT: No we wouldn’t. But we have to .. this is not a permanent appointment. It’s a short-term appointment in the life of a Council. This is a man with an experience, an expertise, a proven track record, and we need somebody now. Adrian Loades has done a really good job in starting off  the reaction to the Ofsted report. But now we need Malcolm Newsam’s experience, expertise and his track record of turning round failing Children’s Services. And Malcolm will have a maximum of a year to do that. And I do have confidence that he will do it. That confidence comes, not least from the last three authorities in which he’s provided that very service.
PAUL STAINTON: But we get another interim person in. I’m sure you said when John Richards resigned that you had someone in mind for the job, who would be taking over permanently, didn’t  you?
PAUL STAINTON: You didn’t say that?
SHEILA SCOTT: No I didn’t. If I did, I made a mistake. Because I knew that we were out there looking for somebody with his sort of experience and expertise, which of course is very expensive. My plan is ..
PAUL STAINTON: But you get this thing where you’ve had Adrian Loades for a bit. Then we’re moving on to this guy for a bit. Then we’re going to have a new person in in a year’s  time. There’s quite a lot of upset there, isn’t there, in the process?
SHEILA SCOTT: Indeed there is. But I always had this in mind, that once I knew about Malcolm Newsam, knew about his experience and expertise, I knew that he was the man to come in and help me to turn around Children’s Services. And the most important part of that turn around is around the safeguarding of the children in the city. And yes, you have to put a price on it. But I think this is a price worth paying.
PAUL STAINTON: Some people are saying it’s way way way too high, £1000 a day in this climate.
SHEILA SCOTT: I understand that.
PAUL STAINTON: People are losing their jobs, Sheila.
SHEILA SCOTT: There are not that many people with this experience, this level of expertise, this reputation, who meet the criteria, I believe, of both the Department of Education and Ofsted.
PAUL STAINTON: We all want to get this right. believe me, I’m sure everybody listening to this this morning wants children in Peterborough to be safe. But when we’ve already spent a hundred and thirty odd thousand pounds a year on John Richards, who evidently couldn’t do the job properly, and now we’re going to spend two hundred and thirty, two hundred and forty thousand pounds a year on this guy, you can understand why people might be angry about this. I mean other people say no. Spend whatever you want. Let’s keep the kids safe. But the majority are angry that we’re spending this amount of money, in this climate.
SHEILA SCOTT: Of course I understand that. I’ve had a few weeks to get used to the idea, so of course I understand. But the challenges around Children’s Services have gone on for some years now. We have this moment, this opportunity to get it right. I hope that I will be able to be invited back in a year’s time, and we will be able to talk about not just the work that Malcolm Newsam’s done in the short term, but the work that he’s done to ensure Children’s Services are sustainable in the long term.
PAUL STAINTON: Has this post ever been advertised, as a full time post?
SHEILA SCOTT: Not in the way .. no. Not in the way that you’re suggesting.
PAUL STAINTON: Why not? Why not advertise for a full time person. You’ve had Adrian Loades for a few months. You’ve got this guy for twelve months. Why have we not advertised it as a full time post, and get somebody in who can keep a stable hand on the rudder at Children’s Services?
SHEILA SCOTT: Paul, this is about the experience and expertise that Malcolm Newsam has got. The Directors that we would attract .. it would probably be a first Director post for instance. We do actually need that experience and expertise right now.
PAUL STAINTON: But you’re only going to get it for twelve months.
PAUL STAINTON: So after that we’re going to go to somebody lesser, is what you’re saying.
SHEILA SCOTT: Well we now have twelve months .. we now have twelve months .. because children’s .. provision of Children’s Services and the provision of education is changing of course. We now have twelve months to recruit somebody fit for the job.
PAUL STAINTON: Right. He worked at Bedforshire, Essex, Kent County Councils. What are his achievements? What has he done there?
SHEILA SCOTT: Each of those authorities .. take Bedford. I’m not sure how long he was in Bedford, but from Bedford they went from “inadequate” to “outstanding”. Essex, he .. they were again judged to be “inadequate”, and he moved them up. Kent, the current Cabinet Member of the Kent Children’s Services said, I think it was just yesterday, that he has made a real difference to their Services. They had 2,800 I believe unallocated cases when he went. He turned that round very quickly, and Ofsted no longer have any concerns about Kent’s Services.
PAUL STAINTON: I’ll read you some of the comments. Ian says, “Children’s services in the area are being cut because of budgets , why don’t they use this money at ground roots level where the kids need it more.” “This should not have happened in the first place.Will the sources that caused the problems be removed to pay for these consultants? Don’t think so.” “typical of Peterborough City Council. They havent got the brains or qualifications to do this themselves and shouldn’t be in the job.” And another saying, “You can’t put a price on the life of children, and that surely any price for the safety of a child is justified.” So you can see there’s quite a lot of split comment there. But people upset about the money. This money and this appointment is not rubber-stamped yet. You expec it to be rubber-stamped on Thursday, is that right?
SHEILA SCOTT: That’s right. Thursday.
PAUL STAINTON: And that will go through, do you think?
SHEILA SCOTT: I would like to say that I am accountable to the electorate. When I came to see you in September, I said I would be open. I knew that some of this would be rocky. But I want people to understand what we’re doing, so that I can be held to account by the people of Peterborough.
PAUL STAINTON: Ok. And obviously we’ve spent a lot of money on this. Did John Richards get a payoff, by the way, when he went, when he left? Did he get a big payoff?
PAUL STAINTON: No? He just left. So it didn’t cost us any more money.
SHEILA SCOTT: He left with the terms of his contract.
PAUL STAINTON: Good stuff. James says, “we need to get it right for our kids Paul. We can’t wait. We need to do it now.” I think opinions pretty split this morning Sheila. Thank you for coming in. Appreciate that. Sheila Scott Cabinet Member for Children’s Services.