At last night’s Scrutiny meeting there was only one thing on the Agenda. How the
hell was the Council allowed to ride rough shod over so many
SEN parents penalising them financially, doing their best to wreck their lives,
tossing out a few lies in response to Labour Councillors’ questions and
initially refusing to apologise when they were eventually found out?
There are some things that need to be said straight away. Cabinet Member John Fuller knew nothing of it because those responsible for the unforgivable situation didn’t think it was in their best interests to tell him. Those members of staff are “no longer with the Council”.
The calamitous maladministration was on Gill Steward’s watch, newcomer Jacky Belton came on the scene too late to bear any responsibility.
It seems unlikely that Steward was sacked as a result of these shenanigans because news of them broke later unless the Council Leader has been telling us the most dreadful porkies and there is no suspicion that she has been.
The Conservatives’ Social Media onslaught on Labour Leader Daniel Francis was as mischievous and misleading as those who attended the Full Council meeting knew it was at the time. It was a smokescreen to deflect his pretty well aimed Exocet and the Tories called for him to resign. At the Scrutiny meeting in July Chairman Alan Downing said that Daniel was talking Twaddle but it is now clear that Councillor Francis is totally free of justifiable criticism.
The procedures have been extensively revised, the staff complement has risen from three to seven and we were told over and over again that the mistakes could not happen again.
One of the half dozen SEN mothers present told in distressing detail how many emails were ignored and how her stress levels rose because of Bexley’s unsympathetic and wrongful responses to the point that she was hospitalised with high blood pressure. And still she awaits an apology.
Last night both Chief Executive Belton and Council Leader Teresa O’Neill apologised profusely as did Councillor Andy Dourmoush (not a Committee Member) informally but one has to wonder how sincere those official apologies really were.
As the meeting drew to a conclusion Councillor Mabel Ogundayo (Labour, Thamesmead East) said that the apologies were most welcome but as so few members of the public would have heard them suggested that the Council should send a letter to every parent who had been adversely affected.
Chairman Alan Downing decided that the idea should be put to a vote and every single Conservative Committee Member voted it down. It couldn’t have had anything to do with saving the price of a few First Class stamps, it could only be due to an unwillingness to allow news of yet another failure in the realm of children’s services to become more widely known than it has to be.
The Councillors refusing to apologise were Alan Downing, Sue Gower, Sybil Camsey, Caroline Newton, Richard Diment, James Hunt and Eileen Pallen.
Councillor Downing appeared to relish his success in putting Mabel back in her box.
This report is from scribbled notes. When time allows the audio recording will be reviewed and many details added but it seemed important to get some basic details out into the open as quickly as possible.