THE leader of Wirral Council has been asked to honour a commitment to enable the public to attend meetings of an improvement board set up following a recent highly-critical Ofsted inspection.

The UK watchdog found “serious and widespread failings” in the local authority’s children services department giving it an “inadequate” rating – the lowest possible.

The board has already met twice and further monthly meetings are planned.

So far the discussions have been held behind closed doors with councillors told they will hear of progress on a “need to know” basis.

Conservative councillor Ian Lewis is campaigning for the public to be allowed in.

He said: “At an emergency council meeting two weeks ago I asked leader Phil Davies if the meetings would be held in public.

“Councillor Davies suggested that some of the meetings would be in public - so let’s see an end to the secrecy that has marked their meetings so far.

“Families and young people in care have every right to see how the failings in this department are being tackled.

"It’s disappointing that no representative of the families or young people have been asked to share their experiences with the board, let alone serve on it.

“If the town hall thinks the people who got us into this mess are the only ones who can get us out of it then they are deluded.”

A town hall spokesman told the Globe: “The council has not yet made a decision regarding whether the children’s improvement board will be held in public.

“Last week Tony Crane was appointed as an advisor to the board by the Department for Education.

“The council is also in the process of finalising the appointment of an independent chairperson.

“In the near future a discussion will be held with both independent advisors to determine how the work of the board will be made available to the public.”

An email from council legal chief Surjit Tour to Cllr Lewis says: “As you know, the council allows all members to attend any formally constituted meetings (“Formal Committees”) irrespective of whether they are appointed to them.

“The improvement board is not however a Formal Committee and as such the above right/arrangement for members to attend does not automatically apply.

“Members who are not appointed to the improvement board would need to show that they have a ‘need to know’ in order to establish an entitlement to attend the improvement board meetings."

The Government issued a formal "Improvement Notice" to the council following Ofsted's inspection.

The official document was sent to the town hall earlier this month and warned that unless significant steps are taken secretary of state for education Justine Greening will use her statutory powers to make an "intervention."

Who are the board members?

"Decision Makers..."

• Improvement Board Independent Chair – To be appointed, Eric Robinson in the interim

• Leader of the Council – Cllr Phil Davies

• Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services – Cllr Tony Smith

• Conservative Group Councillor – Cllr Wendy Clements

• Liberal Group Councillor – Cllr Phil Gilchrist

• Wirral Council Chief Executive – Eric Robinson

• Wirral Safeguarding Children Board Chair – To be appointed, Tracy Hayes Vice Chair LSCB in the interim

• Area Commander – Wirral, Merseyside Police – Ian Hassall

• Cheshire & Wirral Partnership Trust - TBC

• Director of Policy & Patient Safety Clinical Commissioning Group – Lorna Quigley

• Deputy Director Quality and Safeguarding NHS England – Lisa Cooper

• Department for Education Advisor - Tony Crane 

• Chair of Wirral Primary Headteacher Consultative Group – Mike Forber

• Chair of Wirral Association of Secondary Headteachers – Lisa Ayling

• Chair of Wirral Special Headteachers Association – Paula Wearing

• CEO Community Action Wirral – Annette Roberts


• Director for Children's Services – Julia Hassall

• Strategic Lead for improvement & Head of Children’s Social Care – Gladys Rhodes-White

• Head of Early Help & Prevention – Deborah Gornik

• Corporate Safeguarding Manager – Simon Garner

• Interim Head of Performance, Quality & Improvement - Kerry Crichlow

• Senior Manager – Marketing & Communications - Kevin MacCallum

• Children’s Services Front Line Staff representatives - TBC