Inside Croydon today publishes the letter sent last month by the then junior minister for children and families, Robert Goodwill, to Tony Newman, the leader of Croydon Council, in response to the findings of a report on the borough’s failing children’s services by Eleanor Brazil.
It is critical of a number of aspects of the council’s social work performance, so much so that Brazil recommended that the Department for Education should order in staff from another local authority – Camden – to oversee Croydon’s work.
Meanwhile, and despite repeated requests, no one has published the letter from the Minister. Last week, at a council cabinet meeting, Newman said that he would. Then he said perhaps he wouldn’t.
Today, Inside Croydon publishes the letter he didn’t want you to see.
In December, the council’s press office, which is supposed to operate outside political interest and interference, issued a release under the heading: “Minister expresses confidence in Croydon Council’s ability to drive improvements in children’s services”.
The council press office’s copy failed to include all of Robert Goodwill’s supposed “expression of confidence”, but instead relied on a single sentence from the two-page letter which said: “I am encouraged by the commitment the leadership of the council has demonstrated following the inspection and the steps that have been taken to better resource and build capacity in children’s services.”
One read of Goodwill’s letter quickly demonstrates that the quote used by Newman and Croydon Council has been taken entirely out of context.
Because the true tone of the letter comes in the paragraph immediately preceding the selected quote, when Goodwill wrote of Brazil’s report that it, “… makes difficult reading, detailing weaknesses across the service, and a number of missed opportunities to prevent declining standards of support for vulnerable children”.
Weaknesses across the service.
A number of missed opportunities.
Hardly a ringing endorsement after all.
Certainly not the vote of confidence from the minister that £53,000 per year Newman and the council’s tax payer-funded propaganda department tried to claim.
Odd that Newman didn’t want anyone else to see that.
In 2014, Newman led Labour to a resounding victory at the local elections, having railed for years at the secrecy and cover-ups by the previous Tory administration, including the true £150million cost of Fisher’s Folly and the cloak-and-dagger dealings over the Beddington Lane incinerator.
Newman’s party manifesto in 2014 included a promise that Croydon Council would be the most open and transparent the borough had ever seen.
As Inside Croydon has reported today, the failings of Croydon Council’s children’s services department have been linked to the horrific murder of an abused two-year-old, Jeremiah Regis-Ngaujah, in 2016. The serious case review in Wolverhampton mentions the part Croydon Council’s children’s services had played in the breakdown of care which led to such a tragic outcome.
There has been no mention of little Jeremiah on the Croydon Council website, no expression of regret for his loss of life from Newman or other senior Croydon council figures.
But ahead of last night’s full council meeting, Newman had prepared a report. It was done before Inside Croydon had made Eleanor Brazil’s report on children’s services available to a wider audience (in the interests of openness and transparency, of course). Newman’s report was undoubtedly written without considering that Robert Goodwill’s letter would ever be seen by more than the select few that the Minister copied it to.
“Positive news” was how Newman chose to characterise Brazil’s report.
According to Newman, the DfE and the Minister had given “their support for Croydon’s vision and work to improve”.
“I’m so pleased and proud that such high-level trust has been placed in the council’s ability to turn the service around,” Newman claimed.
Somewhat disingenuously, as it turns out.
Newman must have forgotten to mention that an essential condition, recommended by Brazil and supported by the Minister, was for Croydon’s children’s services work to be overseen by officials from Camden.
Not for the first time, Newman’s been caught quoting somewhat selectively.
This time, he missed out the bit from Brazil’s report that says of Croydon Council: “I do not consider that they have the necessary capacity and expertise within the service, to undertake this effectively and quickly without support.”
Not exactly “high-level trust” after all.
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