Jack Abbott, Labour parliamentary candidate for Ipswich, and Adam Robertson, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candiate for Lowestoft, offer views on Suffolk County Council resignations
Opposition politicians have offered their views on the resignations of three senior county councillors in the wake of a damning SEND report.
Rachel Hood, James Reeder and Chris Chambers stepped down from their cabinet positions at Suffolk County Council (SCC) yesterday (February 3) in the wake of the Ofsted and CQC report into the body’s special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision.
Cllr Hood had served as Cabinet Member for Education, SEND and Skills, with Cllr Chambers a deputy in that department, whilst Cllr Reeder resigned as Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s (CYP) Services.
Jack Abbott, Labour parliamentary candidate for Ipswich, said: “I'm afraid the resignation of some middle-ranking politicians isn't going to cut it.
"They might have been the face of the problem, but they weren't the root cause of it, nor were they ultimately responsible for it. That lies with the Leader of Suffolk County Council and the Chief Executive, who have both been in post for nearly six years.
"After years of failure, it is obvious that Suffolk County Council has neither the ability, nor the will, to end Suffolk’s SEND crisis.”
Mr Abbott also said that things were not getting better, and that too much damage had been done. He called for the Government ‘to intervene and provide leadership’ to provide the stability and rescources he says the council ‘so clearly needs.’
The Ipswich MP candidate also wrote a letter to Gillian Keegan, Secretary of State for Education, emploring her and her department to step in an ‘turn this desperate situation around.’
The Ofsted and CQC report found that the system at SCC had not worked for a long time, and that there were ‘widespread and systemic gaps’ in service provision.
Council leader Matthew Hicks had previously said it would be an inappropriate time to shuffle his cabinet, given it was a period of budget-setting.
Adam Robertson, Liberal Democrat parilamentary candidate for Lowestoft, welcome the resignations of the three councillors, but questioned Cllr Hicks’ judgement in not taking action sooner.
“I welcome that Rachel Hood, James Reeder and Chris Chambers have recognised that their positions had become untenable after the damning report published by OFSTED into SEND Services within Suffolk,” he said.
“However, Matthew Hicks’ own political judgment must be scrutinised. He did take decisive action in suspending Cllr Murray who told the truth about SEND Services in Suffolk, yet he did not take decisive action by sacking Rachel Hood on Tuesday.”
Mr Robertson called for strong leadership to take Suffolk forward, but said whether Cllr Hicks was the right person to do this was up for debate.