11 August 2017
Reading Borough Council proposes to move to a new model for delivering children’s services in the form of a Council-owned company, it has announced.
As part of its ongoing improvement journey, the Council is recommending setting up a wholly-owned Council trading company to deliver services for children and young people in Reading. The stand-alone company will focus solely on the operation of children’s services, allowing social workers and other staff to concentrate on their core day to day activities of their work. It would have its own independent board and a decision-making process, separate to the Councils. It would also operate within its own ring-fenced budget. The Council would however continue to hold the company to account for performance.
The recommendation has been made following discussions involving Council Leader Jo Lovelock, Chief Executive Peter Sloman, and Reading Children’s Commissioner Nick Whitfield. Reading Borough Council agrees with the Commissioner and Ofsted, both of which acknowledge that while children’s services in Reading have stabilised, the pace and scale of improvement is not fast enough.
Over the coming months Reading Borough Council will work up detailed proposals on how the new company will operate. This work will include developing a bid to Central Government for start-up costs for the new wholly-owned trading company.
The Council intend to consult with staff and the trade unions and final proposals will also need to be ratified at a later date by a future meeting of the Council. The intention is that the new Reading children’s services company would be operational by September 2018.
Commenting on the plans, Green Party councillor Josh Williams said: “A year ago, Ofsted's review showed that our Council was failing the town’s children, and repeated inspections have shown that improvements are not coming quickly enough.
“The government appointed Commissioner has decided that the best chance of quicker and more certain change is to move responsibility for Children's Services into a new company. Green Party councillors are concerned about this approach, and will do our best to scrutinise the details as to how this will work as they emerge. We will always put the town’s children first, and support our hard-working social workers and management team that look after our children.”
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