Council offices, Twickenham
Council offices, Twickenham
Since 2010 Conservative led Richmond Council have been working with other boroughs developing opportunities to share services. And when it comes to the provision of children’s services, they’re getting pretty chummy with Lib Dem run Kingston. In fact, the two boroughs are establishing a jointly owned organisation, ‘Achieving for Children’, to deliver children’s services in this part of south west London. It’s headed up by Nick Whitfield, formerly of Kingston Council, more recently of El Brute and who is now Joint Director of Education and Children’s Services across the two boroughs. Moving to a situation where a jointly owned body takes on this responsibility moves both councils further down the route of becoming commissioners rather than providers of local services.

For some this is all good news, helping to deliver savings and providing opportunities for private companies to introduce new ideas to the public sphere. Others don’t like it, preferring to see key services provided directly by the local authority, keeping control and accountability more closely tied in to the council. In other words, it’s an ideological debate as well as just a financial one… and it’s right that all aspects including cost, accountability and service delivery are considered. Richmond’s Lib Dems aren’t happy and put a motion to an extraordinary Council meeting at El Brute last week expressing concern over the approach. Their problem with it revolved around the delegation of child protection to an independent third party provider and in the motion they expressed ‘grave concern at the stated intention of the administration to make ‘Achieving for Children’ an independent company.’ And guess what? Not being in control of the Council they lost the vote and so the plan will continue to move forward.

In the meantime, El Brute has launched a consultation on its draft Children’s And Young People’s Plan which sets out the ‘strategic direction and goals’ for the provision of services covering the borough’s young residents through to 2017. The services being discussed affect children and young people up to the age of 19 and, in the case of those in case or with learning disabilities, up to the age of 25. It covers schooling (or rather those aspects which still remain in local authority control), health, caring for people with special needs, promoting opportunities for children, etc.

And of course, it’s going to fall to the new venture ‘Achieving for Children’ to deliver it. You can read through the draft plan online – and probably deserve a GCSE for doing so – and then make comments in a survey. If you want to have your say, the deadline is 17th February.

* Children & Young People Consultation