Doncaster's new mayor 'prioritises' child protection

Ros Jones Mrs Jones will meet with Julian Le Grande and Alan Wood to discuss children's services in Doncaster

Doncaster's newly-elected mayor Ros Jones has pledged to make children's services her "absolute priority".

Child protection in the town has been under government supervision since 2009 after it was deemed to be failing.

Mrs Jones criticised outgoing mayor Peter Davies for not moving "fast enough or quickly enough" on the topic and vowed she would "get things right".

Mr Davies blamed "years of neglect" by former council leaders for the department's problems.

'Ambition and tenacity'

Mrs Jones also stated she would bring a "team approach" to her time in office and give "hope" to Doncaster.

The Labour mayor ousted Mr Davies, the independent incumbent, on Thursday in the town's fourth mayoral election.

She said her first meeting would be with academic Julian Le Grande and Alan Wood, the director of children's services in Hackney.

Analysis

Winning by 639 votes is the political equivalent of goal difference, but however you cross the line you have still got a job to do.

Children's Services being top of Ros Jones' inbox is no surprise. Her first meeting is with the academic preparing a report on the department. If the council is judged to be failing to keep children safe, Doncaster could be the first place ever to have a department taken away from them.

During the campaign Ros Jones put much of the blame for the lack of progress on her predecessor Peter Davies. But, as a Labour councillor for seven years, she will know that her party bears responsibility for getting them into this mess in the first place.

Her first test will be how she handles the relationship Doncaster has been forced into with the government.

Can she give the impression Doncaster is able to get itself out of trouble, rather than needing help from elsewhere?

The two men were tasked by Education Secretary Michael Gove to investigate whether Doncaster should be forced to outsource its children's services department.

In March 2009, the government ordered a takeover of Doncaster's children's services after the deaths of seven children in the district through abuse or neglect over five years.

Less than a year later a serious case review found the attacks in the nearby town of Edlington in which two young boys were tortured by two brothers, aged 11 and 12, had been "preventable".

Mrs Jones said: "We've got to sort this out, it's an absolute priority.

"What we can change is actually getting in there, sorting out where things are going wrong, getting in the right systems, the right people and getting continuity.

"Unfortunately we did not move fast enough or quickly enough and we've got to believe that there's something there that needs sorting out, unfortunately Peter Davies thought it was OK."

Mrs Jones added she felt she had the "drive, ambition and tenacity" to be successful in office.

She said: "I'm going to bring a real team approach... not one person has all the answers.

"I will make the key decisions but I will do that after consultation."

'Crass comments'

Responding to Mrs Jones, Mr Davies said the problems in Doncaster were deeply rooted.

He said: "This goes back to something like ten to 20 years of neglect by the Labour Party which culminated in seven deaths, eight serious case reviews and the notorious case at Edlington.

"That was the legacy that the Labour Party left in 2009.

"For anybody in the Labour Party to make these crass comments defies belief and at no point have I ever said that children's services are OK.

"I wish her well in sorting it out, but the fact is the spade work has been done by my colleagues and it may be a bit easier for her to finish it off than it was for me to pick up the pieces from the Labour Party."

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