October 21, 2014
Burnham's MP attacks council after sacking of children's boss

Burnham-On-Sea's MP Tessa Munt has this week attacked Somerset County Council for paying 'ludicrously large sums' to its managers.

Her comments come after we reported here last week that Somerset County Council had terminated the contract of its interim Director of Children’s Services Peter Lewis following a series of disappointing reports into some of the Council’s Children’s Homes and Children’s Centres. He was recruited via an agency and the total cost per year including agency fees was £318,500.

Tessa, pictured, said: "I’m pleased that the Conservative leader of Somerset County Council has finally accepted it was not right to pay such ludicrously large sums to his managers."

"Children and young people placed into care, through no fault of their own, have a right to be safe and secure. Those of us who pay our taxes have a right to know that these children and young people are looked after in ways that meet the highest standards of care. The real problem in Somerset was, and remains, a lack of frontline staff whose job it is to identify children and young people who are at risk."

"An emergency meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday this week to approve the Council's new Human Resources policy. Having read the documents, I’m staggered to find that the Conservative-controlled Council has not made any of the changes necessary to stop the very practice that drew such enormous criticism from Conservative Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles, who slammed the situation as 'an outrageous use of public money' and 'an abuse of process'."

"The Council has failed to publish its current policy in the papers for this meeting or on its website where you would expect to find it, so it’s impossible to identify exactly what changes are being proposed."

She added: "I’m unclear why the Conservatives are bothering to present a new policy when it doesn’t deal with the main problem, which is using huge amounts of taxpayers' money - firstly, to fund managers without any element of performance-related pay and, secondly, using contracts which mean that individuals can avoid paying income tax and making National Insurance Contributions as every other member of staff would have to."

"Before Mr Lewis’ departure from his post as Director of Children's Services was announced last Friday, I submitted the following question to the County Council which, depending on my commitments in Parliament, I will ask at the Extraordinary Full Council on Wednesday. If I am unable to be at the meeting, I understand the question will nonetheless be dealt with in my absence."

"That question will be: 'What measures has the Leader of Somerset County Council taken to respond to the advice given by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, in response to the question in Parliament from David Heath MP, namely that payment of public servants through the use of Personal Services Companies is 'an abuse of process' and the cost of the managers of Somerset’s Children’s Services is 'outrageous''?"


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