In the wake of Jill Baker’s sacking and constant Ofsted criticism of the way Salford Council has handled safeguarding the city’s children, the Salford Star called for the heads of councillors John Merry and John Warmisham, and Chief Executive Barbara Spicer. John Merry has now issued the following statement…
"I am satisfied that each of us have discharged our responsibilities. We have made resources available and worked to improve a service which faced problems and continues to have challenges. Progress is being made and we are holding people to account to maintain that progress.
"In rushing to condemn the city council, the Salford Star has chosen to not include from Ofsted's letter the fact that the city council's rating for Children's Services is "adequate". It has also not acknowledged the Audit Commission's finding this week that the authority is performing well overall.
"Our commitment has always been to do the best for the children and young people of this city. We are doing this, together."
This is all well and good, but, as we pointed out in a previous feature, these three people were directly accountable for safeguarding vulnerable children in Salford. Councillor Merry says that they are "holding people to account"…Which people? Certainly not themselves. So who is holding them to account, given that they were all in charge of safeguarding issues during all the critical independent reports and the tragic death of a toddler?
Also to say that "progress is being made" and that the service is now "adequate" completely ducks the point because what is happening now, or even six months ago, isn't the issue - we're talking way back to 2006 and all the Ofsted reports of inadequacy since that date. Although if Mr Merry wants to talk about the now, the current `organisational statement' for Salford states "The Council knows that further work is needed to improve the way it works with partners to protect vulnerable children"…that's hardly a ringing endorsement of the current state of Children's Services.
No-one is saying that there isn't a commitment by the Council "to do the best for the children and young people of this city". It's just that this hasn't been good enough.
John Merry himself said in issue 7 of Salford Star that "For a brief period we didn't safeguard children in the way that we should have done…I'm sure we could have handled that better…"
We still believe that all three should resign …