Sunday, 29 April 2012

AM accuses care officials of political bias

Lib Dem AM Peter Black has accused Welsh government officials of political bias by failing to intervene in what he says are poor service standards in a Labour-controlled council.

In an exchange on the Lib Dem website Freedom Central, the Assembly member and Swansea councillor dismissed allegations that low council tax rates in recent years had resulted in a decline in services in his own local authority.

In 2009, Welsh government sent in a team to tackle failing childrens’ services at Swansea. This followed an assessment by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) that the council had made little progress in addressing serious performance shortcomings identified earlier critical report.

A comment on the Lib Dem spin-site suggested that low staffing investment was behind the significant decline in services that had happened on Lib Dem watch. Millions had needed to be pumped in to provide a basic standard.

Black disagreed, stating:

“The intervention came about because of management and process failures. Exactly the same at Neath Port Talbot in fact but there will not be an intervention there, even though their service is worse than Swansea’s ever was, because they are run by Labour.”

In January this year, Black issued a press statement in which he called for assurances that children in Neath Port Talbot are being properly protected. He stated that his concerns were prompted by criticisms made by the Social Services Inspectorate.

In a further (but unpublished) comment to the website, Black has been asked to back up his allegation of party political bias by the Welsh government and its officials.

He has not responded.

Update: Black has now amended his comment to read: " ... there will not be an intervention there though their service is worse than Swansea’s ever was, because the Minister is reluctant to intervene with Councils that are run by Labour."

It remains to be seen if this late qualification will appease care agency officials who are said to have contacted their trade union legal section over his earlier comments.


  1. Ap William10:04

    Mr Black should be more careful. What he says is very close to being defamatory. Any official involved in assessment work at NPT is affected through implication by his allegations and entitled to take action through their union solicitors or professional association.

  2. You would expect me to support Peter Black from a party political point of view, but I genuinely believe that if it had not been for his intervention as an AM (with the able assistance and experience of Swansea City's cabinet member) NPT would not have reviewed its provision for vulnerable children, no matter how much we in opposition parties queried it. So much of the evidence for this must remain confidential, but I invite you to look at the record of children's services in both authorities. Both had a series of critical reports, both had cases of vulnerable children dying because of children's services deficiencies.

    Swansea tackled its failings in 2009. NPT only got around to it last year after a second adverse report and the intervention of Peter Black responding to a very serious case. NPT may not have a Welsh government team in place, but it has had to call in consultants from England.

    In reply to Ap William, it is elected members who are being attacked, not officials.

  3. Ap William13:02

    FH - for info

    As you probably know, the grounds for intervention are very specific and are based upon evaluation of present and projected outcomes which relate to performance, corporate awareness and scope for improvement.

    There is no league-tabling in such matters and comparisons are difficult if not unwise. However, the level at which service improvements are only considered likely through external intervention are clearly outlined. They do not require political input other than signing of the necessary orders.

    In reality, ministers have little actual discretion other than in matters of timing.

    As far as NPT is concerned, it would be the First Minister who would be advised on the need for intervention given the potential conflict of interest.

  4. So Blackie changes the text but not the time and date. Methinks he thought better about making unfounded allegations against officials.

  5. Just to be clear, it was never my intention to impugn officials who have been 100% professional and impartial throughout. It is my personal view that the problems at Neath Port Talbot justified an intervention and that such a course of action requires a Ministerial decision. It was the fact that Ministers did not order an intervention that I was critical of. I amended the statement to make that clear. If, as has been stated there is a clear criteria and Ministers do not have discretion then I accept that I have commented in error however that has never been my understanding of the process.


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