A Very Troubled Council

 

cllr-tony-smith

Cllr Tony ‘Trouble’  Smith

We understand that at last night’s Extraordinary Meeting of Wirral Council that there were several calls for various heads to roll in the aftermath of the Ofsted Inspection Report. Prominent among them being Cllr Tony Smith the Labour Cabinet lead for Children’s Services.

It didn’t happen of course due to both a lack of  opposition votes and also seemingly a lack of shame.  

It seems that much of the criticism levelled at Cllr Tony Smith is that with his soothing,lilting,lovely Irish brogue he has reassured councillors that everything  was fine ,to be sure , so it is, when talking about how well the council was doing when it came to safeguarding vulnerable children. 

But it clearly wasn’t doing well at all, at all – and he and others knew it!.

And so this now turns out to be a  further manifestation of what Ofsted politely call  “a culture of over-optimism” and what we identified almost exactly 3 years ago as ‘The Pollyanna Principle’ with its prime proponent being Council leader Phil ‘Power Boy Pip’ Davies :

POWER BOY PIP & THE POLLYANNA PRINCIPLE *

How timely then that it has been brought to our attention that  Cllr Tony Smith has a history of making statements that are not merely “over -optimistic”  but considering his position – misleading,manipulative and irresponsible.

Our regular learned contributor ‘The Professor’ informs us that an official (leaked) report has concluded that the Troubled Family Programme delivered zero improvements in families nationally and reminds us :

Last year I reported on the false claims by the Council of a ‘huge success’ in ‘turning around’ local families from hell in the Troubled Families Programme. It turned out those claims were false. Now we learn that a leaked, independent government sponsored report by Ecorys confirms and extends these conclusions nationally. But let’s remind ourselves of the Wirral Council claims first. Cllr. Tony Smith declared in March 2015 at the TFP celebrations, that

                            ‘we have seen a hugely successful outcome…’

 What actually happened? Well initially 74% of our families had workless adults. At project end just 2.6% had gained an adult with a job, or 24 in total.  The local project processed 910 families compared with 118,000 nationally. The national cost of the TFP phase 1 was ~£615 million so average cost per family was £5.2K. Our cost share would be £4.72 million. We can see that each job gained cost us ~£197,000. Is that good value? However in addition it was claimed that 77% of the Wirral troubled families had met the ‘crime / ASB / education’ target. Surely a big reduction in crime or antisocial behaviour is worth something? Except that 93.5% of adults and 89.6% of children had not been involved in ASB at project entry!  84 % of minors had not been involved in offences! Only 1.2% of the children had an ASBO or ABC!. It turns out that the 77% number is phoney and, to the extent it measures anything, that is a modest reduction in school absences, not criminality.

The Professor’s full report to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee : Troubled Families Inquiry 2016 can be read here : https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxrkIjRDgrB-ODJLNjYyY2trNVQwZThoMkxXVm1GNW5pVjBJ

Not only are we troubled that last year this was presented as a good news story ‘The Professor’ also suggests our local cost share of TFP phase 2 could be ~£7 million with NO  prospect of any benefits delivery at all except more populist political hate spin on the poorest (mainly ill) ‘families from hell’.
But of course you won’t be reading about any of this in Wirral Council’s forthcoming publication Wirral Today nor sadly it would seem about the resignation of Cllr Tony Smith……..