THE Government troubleshooter brought in to Haringey council in the aftermath of the Baby P scandal has been chosen to rescue Wirral's failing children's services.

Eleanor Brazil - commissioner for children's social care and advisor at the Department for Education - will chair an improvement board tasked with transforming the way the local authority looks after vulnerable young people.

The board was set up last September after an Ofsted inspection exposed an alarming catalogue of serious and widespread failings.

Ms Brazil - awarded the OBE in this year's New Year Honours - was made interim deputy director of Haringey's children and families services following the killing of Peter Connelly - also known as Baby P - after social workers missed signs of abuse.

She also led an inquiry at Birmingham City Council after a seven-year-old child starved to death under their watch.

Another appointment saw her take over as interim director of children's services at Doncaster Council after two brothers inflicted a 90-minute torture ordeal on two young boys.

At the same time as Ms Brazil's appointment former Children’s Commissioner for England Professor Maggie Atkinson has been announced as the new independent chairwoman of Wirral Safeguarding Children’s Board.

Dr Atkinson will be remembered for a Merseyside controversy.

Although widely-recognised as a champion for improving child safety, in 2010 she apologised to the mother of murdered Liverpool toddler James Bulger following her comments about raising the age of criminal responsibility.

She had said in an article that the killers should not have been prosecuted because at the age of ten they were too young.

The comments led James's mother Denise Fergus to call for her sacking because of her "twisted and insensitive" views.

Dr Atkinson then sent a letter to Mrs Fergus to express sorrow for the "hurt" that resulted from her remarks.

The two high-profile women undoubtedly will have an impact at the town hall - and their jobs could not be more important.

Ofsted has rated child safeguarding in Wirral as "inadequate" - the lowest possible ranking.

They also found Wirral Safeguarding Children’s Board - the body which is supposed to ensure vulnerable youngsters are protected - was susceptible to the influence of local politicians.

The improvement board has met five times - with press and public barred from attending.

And it has yet to circulate minutes to anyone outside the meetings - a move which has drawn criticism from town hall Conservatives.

Tories say the board must stop meeting behind closed doors or the public will lose faith in its ability to bring about change.

Council chief executive Eric Robinson said: “Professor Maggie Atkinson and Eleanor Brazil will play vital roles in helping us make changes to how we deliver children’s services in Wirral.

"They bring a wealth of experience and will be a huge asset as we continue to respond to the recent Ofsted report."

Ofsted chiefs will visit the borough next week to check on progress for the first time since their inspection report was published.

An improvement plan has been submitted to the watchdog and the Department for Education.

It proposes a new recruitment drive should be launched along with a revised approach to keeping existing staff in an effort to reduce the £4.5m cost of hiring outside agency workers.

Mr Robinson continued: “One of our priorities in the coming weeks and months is improving our ability to attract and retain social workers” 

"Recruitment and retention of skilled staff is a challenge for local authorities across the whole country - but a particularly difficult one in the North West.

"We absolutely must have the right number of social workers with the right experience and ability to provide the services our children need, and we need them now.

“Wirral Council spends around £4.5m a year on temporary agency staff costs – and about 90% of that is in our children’s services department.

“In the past staff numbers at Wirral, like many other councils, have had to be reduced in response to cuts in funding or as cost saving measures.

"The impact of those cuts means we must invest in short term or temporary support to fill gaps, and when it is urgent, to speed up and develop improvement or transformation plans within children’s services and across the wider organisation.

“We have to get the balance right between managing the spending cuts and rising costs and the challenge of finding suitably qualified staff to provide the quality services our residents expect and deserve.”

Conservative councillor Paul Hayes said: "Five months have gone by, five meetings of the improvement board have been held, and yet there has no reporting back to the public.

“How does the council expect to restore faith in their abilities to tackle the crisis in children’s services if they are not being open and honest with the public?

“I believe the very least that should happen is publication of the minutes of all meetings held to date - and a commitment for future meetings to be held in public.”

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

It warned unless significant steps are taken secretary of state for education Justine Greening will use her statutory powers to make an "intervention."