Extra meeting on children’s services now ‘councillor training’

Mystery surrounds what’s on the agenda for Monday night’s council meeting, or who’ll be allowed to attend. By WALTER CRONXITE

Monday’s council meeting on the crisis in children’s services, called in place of a scheduled cabinet meeting, looks set to be held behind closed doors, with no public or media access.

Monday night’s council meeting could be behind closed doors

No formal summons for a full council meeting has been issued to the borough’s 70 elected councillors, and by the end of office hours on Friday, no agenda had been published by the council for this latest emergency meeting, which is believed to have been prompted by the highly critical Ofsted report last month on the council’s performance.

Council officials are normally expected to provide councillors, and the public, with agendas for all council meetings at least seven days in advance.

The previously scheduled council cabinet meeting remains cancelled.

Now, the council website refers to Monday’s meeting in the Town Hall chamber as “Training workshop for all members of the Council, Monday, 16th October 2017, 6.30pm”.

“So we’re now being ‘trained’ in what we can or cannot say publicly are we?” said one councillor, annoyed at the lack of information and uncertainty over Monday’s meeting.

“It’s like something out of Kafka. Or North Korea.”

At the last emergency meeting to discuss the children’s services crisis, Jo Negrini, the £185,000 per year town clerk, reminded the elected representatives that they are all “corporate parents”, and therefore all responsible for any failings of her staff working in children’s services. Negrini then issued rulings during the course of the meeting to prevent all but a handful of “corporate parents” from being given an opportunity to speak at the meeting.

Children’s services has a wide remit, but is responsible for the welfare of every child in the borough, and looks after matters including fostering, adoption and the care of unattached minors who arrive in Croydon seeking asylum.

Originally, it was understood that Monday’s meeting would allow councillors to be updated on the latest developments in efforts to improve the children’s services department’s performance, with a government-appointed commissioner overseeing the work.

Tony Newman: training, or a meeting in secret?

Now, there’s growing doubt about what might happen.

In 2014, Tony Newman and his Labour councillors won control of the Town Hall on a manifesto that promised “the most open and transparent council” in Croydon’s history. Monday’s agenda-less training session seems far removed from that ideal.

“By calling it a ‘training workshop’, Monday’s meeting will have no status,” our Katharine Street source said. “There’s a strong chance that the public will be refused admission and there’ll be no webcast, there might be no minutes, and the meeting will have no formal status. Nothing that is discussed or agreed there will have any standing.

“It’s not clear who has decided on this course of action, Negrini or the council leader, Tony Newman. Either way, they could be taking us into dangerous territory with this.”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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2 Responses to Extra meeting on children’s services now ‘councillor training’

  1. The confusion is just the term ‘Council meeting’. Officers give confidential briefings to each of the two political groups at their regular Group meetings. This is simply a combined meeting to brief both political groups at the same time and is not open to the public. Such meetings are a necessary part of ensuring that Councillors are fully briefed in the running of the Council and its services and able to ask detailed questions of officers to ensure the efficient and smooth running of services, or in this case why they failed. No mystery or ‘lack of transparency’ here.

    • Those other meetings are never scheduled in the public domain of the council’s website, Adrian. Nor do they supplant prevously scheduled public (in this case, cabinet) meetings.

      And councillors are given proper due notice of those other meetings, something else which has not happened in this case.

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