A political row has broken out in Blackpool after the town’s Conservatives called for the resignation of the council leader and cabinet member over the running of Children’s Services.
Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Tory group on the council, said council leader Coun Simon Blackburn and cabinet secretary Coun Graham Cain should both step down in the wake of a second damning Ofsted report in six years.
But Coun Blackburn hit back claiming Coun Williams was using the report “to play a political game” before referring to his opponent as “a Poundland Donald Trump”.
The report, published in January, rated Blackpool's Children’s Services as ‘inadequate’. It came just a month after the town’s Youth Offending Team was also branded ‘inadequate’ following an inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation.
Children’s Services had previously been rated ‘inadequate’ in 2012, although it later received a more positive rating of ‘requires improvement’.
Coun Williams told a meeting of the full council: “The council has been given misleading and unfulfilled promises by the portfolio holder and leader of the council.”
He added: “The inspectors stated some children could be at more harm inside of our care than being outside it. The people of this town cannot, will not and should not accept that.
“Despite calls for the leader and portfolio holder to resign, they refuse to do so. ”
Coun Williams said leaders in other towns had resigned in the wake of similar reports.
But Coun Blackburn repeated his previous statements that he believes he is the right person to carry out improvements to Children’s Services, along with Coun Cain.
He told the meeting: “There are no excuses. I am very clear we accept every single aspect of this Ofsted report and we are committed to getting it right.”
He said he had considered resigning ‘hundreds of times’ but “in the end, having consulted with friends and colleagues, I decided that if I resign there would be no-one to stop Coun Cain resigning.
“The first thing he did was offer to resign and I said ‘no’ as I think he is the best person to take this forward.”
Coun Blackburn added: “One could almost think the opposition is trying to play a political game.
“My view is what Blackpool needs is a leader who is committed, passionate and experienced and not a Poundland Donald Trump.”
Coun Williams had called for a special meeting of the council to discuss his resignation call, but later withdrew his demand after Coun Blackburn and the chief executive agreed a request for two Conservative councillors to join the Improvement Board set up to take Children’s Services forward.
Coun Williams said after the meeting: “The most important factor of this whole sorry issue is the care of our local children and that the front line staff are given the tools and support they need we want to ensure that both those issues are addressed with some urgency.”