Norfolk County Council plays down Ofsted row claim

Education news from the Lynn News,, @lynnnewscitizen on Twitter
Education news from the Lynn News,, @lynnnewscitizen on Twitter
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County education officials have sought to play down claims of a row between the authority and inspectors after a key report into children’s services was delayed.

The findings of a new Ofsted report into Norfolk County Council had been expected to be released on Tuesday.

But publication of the inspection has been delayed for several more weeks, amid claims of a dispute between the council and the inspection body.

However, a council spokesman said yesterday: “We are continuing to have a conversation with Ofsted and we don’t now expect publication of the report for another month.”

The issue overshadowed Tuesday’s meeting of the children’s services committee, where members were asked to examine initial proposals for how the department might operate in the future if further severe budget cuts are implemented.

It was the latest in a series of committee discussions to look at how the authority’s services could be affected if budget cuts of up to 25 per cent, the equivalent of more than £30 million to children’s services alone, have to be implemented over the next three years.

Ahead of the meeting, officials warned that, if the full 25 per cent cut was imposed, the number of children in care in the county would have to be slashed to around half the regional average, approximately 420.

And Michael Rosen, the authority’s director of children’s services, reported: “To enable this members would potentially need to accept a significantly higher level of risk of harm to children, and this increased risk profile would need to be agreed and adhered to across the wider Children’s Services partnership.”

Initial savings, worth around £2.7 million in total next year, have already been identified, including reforms to early years provision by reducing the number of outside bodies working with the authority and more of that work being done by a new in-house unit.

Officials have also identified reducing teacher retirement costs and a review of how much money the council generates from its support services to schools as ways of helping to meet the shortfall.

They say they are also looking at further potential cuts to social work budgets and school transport

Updated proposals will now be drawn up ahead of the committee’s next meeting in October.

Attention now turns to the authority’s environment, development and transport committee, which meets in Norwich today.

It emerged last week that the committee will be asked to look at plans to close the Docking recycling centre next year and slash operating days at the Heacham and Ashill sites from seven days to only four.

Community leaders have warned that, if approved, the cuts could lead to more fly-tipping in the area.

But officials have insisted they cannot afford to keep the Docking site, which they say is the least used of the county’s 20 recycling centres, open.