Ministers must fix troubled council after murder of two children, says Labour

Ministers must use “everything in their power” to ensure a troubled council does not fail children again following the murder of two youngsters, Labour has said.

Shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne also questioned if Northamptonshire County Council is “able to finance the improvements to children’s services both now and during the reorganisations”.

As he asked an urgent question about the deaths of two-year-old Dylan Tiffin-Brown and one-year-old Evelyn-Rose Muggleton, he wanted to know if the local authority will be able to implement improvements needed to put right “severe service failings”.

Mr Gwynne said Northamptonshire’s children’s service have been “on the radar” since the council was “overwhelmed” by “severe financial troubles” last year.

He told the Commons: “I hope we will now see, and I believe we will, ministers use everything in their power to ensure that this public institution does not fail children again and to prevent other tragedies happening elsewhere.”

Education minister Nadhim Zahawi earlier said Malcolm Newsam, the commissioner appointed to oversee improvements, has identified six priority areas for significant improvement, including learning from the “tragic” deaths of the two children and others.

He added he has issued a statutory direction to the county council to work with the commissioner to create an operationally independent children’s service trust serving Northamptonshire by July 2020.

Replying to Mr Gwynne, the minister also said: “Overall, if you look at England, funding for children’s services – local authorities have made some tough decision but protected that funding.

“I can give him the reassurance that working with Malcolm Newsam and the recommendations he has made for me and the trust that will be delivering for all of Northamptonshire’s children, will be, I think, the best way forward.”

Mr Gwynne also said a serious case review for a third child remains confidential.

He said the boy from Northampton was “locked in a room, beaten and abused”, with the parents jailed for neglect last month.

Mr Zahawi, in his reply, said there is a presumption that all serious case review reports are published and the relevant panel has “not yet received the draft serious case review” in relation to this child.

Dylan’s father Raphael Kennedy, 31, and Evelyn-Rose’s mother’s boyfriend Ryan Coleman, 23, were both jailed for life for the youngsters’ murders.

Dylan was killed in Northampton in December 2017 and Evelyn-Rose was murdered in Kettering in April last year.

Tory MP for Kettering, Philip Hollobone, said his constituents want to know “who is taking responsibility for this appalling tragedy”, suggesting the council leader Matthew Golby should resign.

He said: “And I’m afraid the answer must be the local councillor in charge of Children’s Services at the time.

“Now that individual now happens to be the leader of Northamptonshire County Council.

“He is a good man and he’s working very hard to transform the county council into the two new unitaries but I believe and my constituents believe the buck must stop with the person at the top.”

He asked Mr Zahawi to back his call for Mr Golby to go, but the minister said he would not comment “on the local political leadership”.

Labour MP Angela Eagle (Wallasey) said he must look at “what is going on in social services up and down the country and recognise that funding is an issue”.

But Mr Zahawi said although he “recognises there are funding pressures on children’s services”, to “simply characterise this as a funding issue would be misleading”.

Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne said Northamptonshire had the “most expensive children’s services in the county|”, asking: “So funding wasn’t an issue, was it?”

The minister agreed, saying it was a “much more fundamental”, which was why the authority was taken into trust.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Joe Giddens / PA Wire.

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