Doncaster Mayor Martin Winter Defies Calls To Quit In Child Death Scandal
The head of a local authority under fire after the death of seven children has rejected a formal council vote calling for his resignation.
Martin Winter, Mayor of Doncaster, has faced increasing criticism since the Ofsted inspection graded the South Yorkshire town’s children’s services “inadequate” last month.
At a council meeting held at Doncaster’s Mansion House, councillors voted in favour of a motion demanding the Mayor’s resignation.
Forty-six councillors voted for the motion, which read: “The council calls upon Martin Winter, the elected Mayor, to accept full responsibility regarding the failure of the Children and Young People’s Service that has occurred within his period of office. We request that he does the honourable thing and resigns with immediate effect.”
Just six councillors voted against the motion, while seven abstained. Members of the public jeered and cat-called the Mayor, branding him a “disgrace” to the town.
But Mr Winter told the chamber that, instead of targeting him, councillors should focus on “how and why this council was not made aware of the developing crisis in our children’s services”.
He said: “This council is in danger of putting politics first and the people of our borough second.”
Seven children have died in the Doncaster area since late 2004 in cases involving neglect or abuse. Serious case reviews were commissioned to find out what mistakes were made in each instance, although the results of only three have so far been published.
Government-led and internal reviews have also been launched to investigate the council failings.
In an emergency council meeting last week, councillors questioned Mr Winter on staffing levels, funding cuts and lack of support for social workers within the children’s services department.
Today, they criticised his approach to the role of mayor. A Liberal Democrat councillor, Eric Tatton-Kelly, said: “In this council, everything is about the Mayor. He’s made it so – always, always, always wanting to take the personal approach and never, never, never wanting to take personal responsibility.
“I believe children’s services are in safe hands now, but we can’t just wipe away the past without any comment.”
But Mr Winter said that he had done all he could to address the situation, particularly in the wake of media attention surrounding the problems at Haringey Council in north London following the death of Baby P.
He said: “The simple fact is that, as soon as these issues were brought to my attention, I took action. And I took decisive action. I made the finances available immediately. I referred to an ’emerging situation in children’s services’ within my budget proposals, partly because I thought the borough was starting to mirror recent incidents in another part of the British Isles.”
He continued: “You tell me that I’m not concerned about children and children’s safety and that my top priority ’of education’ is just a political fantasy. I think there are many people in this chamber today living a political fantasy.”
Doncaster’s failings were highlighted last week when a violent and drug-addicted father known to social services was jailed for life for the murder of his baby son.
Craig Goddard squeezed, shook and then threw 11-week-old Alfie to the floor after he lost his temper when the baby refused to stop crying. Goddard had been drinking and had smoked several cannabis joints. The baby died of head injuries two days later.
Crucial information that Goddard had twice been referred for psychiatric treatment for his ferocious temper was not passed on to social services at Doncaster Council, nor that he had attacked the child’s mother, Lindsay Harris, 19.
Harris received a suspended sentence and 150 hours of community service for perverting the course of justice. She repeatedly lied to doctors and the police about the cause of the injuries, saying that Alfie had accidentally fallen down the stairs.