Cllr Wicks must resign (reprise)

Some time ago, whilst still a very committed Conservative, I wrote an article on my old Birmingham and Beyond website, calling on Cllr Les Wicks to resign his portfolio.

18 months on, he is still facing irate parents and others concerned with the more recent OFSTED inspection in relation to child protection.

Whilst Rose Collinson has since left, in most other respects the article is still as relevant today as it was 18 months ago, and merits reproduction here now:

It is with a heavy heart that I write this post about a man for whom I have a great deal of respect, but, in the end, the interests of Medway’s school children must come before personal feelings.

Councillor Les Wicks, Medway Council member for Rainham South ward, is the long-standing Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services – a department which has seen no shortage of angry parents, badly-managed crises and critical press.

Despite ever-improving school results, the children’s services department has managed to cause angst and upset amongst teacher, parents and pupils on a number of occasions, from its school closures program to the recent Medway Test debacle.

It is clear to every observer with a brain cell that something clearly needs to be done about the department – and fast – before it is allowed to mismanage another project or program that could prove vital for the future of every child in Medway.

It must, of course, be made clear that, contrary to the (mainly) party political outbursts from Medway’s opposition, Cllr Wicks is not personally to blame for every ill in his department.

Liberal Democrat blogger Chris Sams hit the nail on the head in his call for Cllr Wicks to resign yesterday, when he said that Rose Collinson, the £115,000 p.a. (plus benefits) full time Director of Children’s Services, was equally to blame for the wrongs of the department.

No matter how dedicated and knowledgeable the portfolio holder (on 10% of the Director’s pay for the privilege of being the public figurehead and politically accountable), they cannot be expected to know absolutely everything in their department, and rely on the Director and staff to keep them up-to-date accurately and fully with their brief.

The children’s services department, though, is clearly ineffective and badly in need of a complete overhaul from the top down.

It is of no use to merely apologise and learn ones lesson, and even Cllr Wicks’ resignation would be little more than papering over the cracks.

Although it would be a useful start.

If he cares at all about the children whose futures are currently in his hands, Cllr Wicks must resign his portfolio and allow another person to take the task of reforming the department.

But, so too must Rose Collinson.

What is needed is an outsider with experience to take the helm as Director of Children’s Services, to clean up and reform an ineffective, under-performing department; to ensure that no further monumental disasters are permitted; and to introduce greater consultative procedures to ensure a helpful dialogue between the council and parents and teachers at all times.

As far as I am concerned, the children’s services department is the weak link in an ever-improving council, and measures must be taken immediately to bring it up to par and to end the apathetic, below-standard operations in the department.

As long as the Les and Rose show continues, disaster is only a curtain call away.

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