AN improvement board set up to oversee the urgent transformation of Wirral’s failing child safeguarding services has lost its influential leader.

Chairwoman Eleanor Brazil has quit the job - and joins former children’s services cabinet member Cllr Tony Smith and department director Julia Hassall in heading for the exit.

Now opposition councillors have written to Edward Timpson,
minister for vulnerable children and families, calling for the service to be taken over by Government-appointed commissioners.

The board was set up in the wake of an Ofsted inspection in September which found evidence of “serious and widespread failings” in child protection.

It gave the service its lowest possible rating – “inadequate.”

Ms Brazil- commissioner for children's social care and advisor at the Department for Education - was appointed to chair the board in January.

Troubleshooter Ms Brazil - awarded the OBE in this year's New Year Honours - has an impressive track record.

She 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.

A town hall spokesman told the Globe: "Eleanor Brazil informed her fellow improvement board members of her intention to resign last week.

"As part of the letter confirming her decision Eleanor went to great lengths to highlight the progress which has been made in the past six months – particularly stressing how impressed she had been with the knowledge and commitment demonstrated by social workers in Wirral.

"It is unfortunate Eleanor is unable to continue in the role, but she leaves with the thanks and best wishes of everyone in the council.

"Independent, national experts in this field – such as Dr Maggie Atkinson, who chairs the safeguarding board, and Tony Crane from the Department for Education – will continue to provide support to the improvement board to ensure we can maintain the quick pace of improvement throughout all services for children."

Councillor Paul Hayes, newly-appointed Conservative spokesman for children’s services, said: “The resignation of the chair of the improvement board is the most serious development so far.

“She is the third senior departure in three weeks and this means that neither the children’s department or the board have anyone permanent in charge.

“We have had concerns from the beginning that this board was too secretive and not open to scrutiny.

“We need to know what on earth has been going on to cause her departure now, barely five months into the job.”

He continued: “In January the leader of the council told us to have confidence in his senior team and the people he was trusting to turn this service around.

“Five months later and none of them, apart from the leader and chief executive, are still in post.

“Well the buck stops with them - Cllr Davies and Eric Robinson have nobody left to blame or point the finger at.”

Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Phil Gilchrist said: “This is a significant and quite disturbing development.

“I am very anxious that the work is not damaged or undermined.

"The board must have members with strong independence, free to question and challenge.

“It must have the power to both persuade and guide. Any outside observer can justifiably ask ‘what’s been going on?’ and get frank answers.

“The sequence of events needs to be set out. Maintaining staff morale is going to be crucial as this story unfolds.”


The Government issued a formal "Improvement Notice" to Wirral Council last September following the devastating Ofsted inspection.

The official document advised unless significant steps were taken to transform safeguarding the secretary of state for education, Justine Greening, would use her statutory powers to make an "intervention" - Whitehall-speak for sending in commissioners.


There was a further and even more shocking crisis exposed earlier this month when reporting restrictions were lifted on the sentencing of brothers Ilvarasan and
Vinothan Rajenthiram
who were found guilty of child sexual exploitation offences against vulnerable teenage victims in Birkenhead.