Thurrock Council to employ new director of children’s services following row over reorganisation

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By Local Democracy Reporter
Steve Shaw

COUNCILLORS in Thurrock are expected to approve the appointment of a new boss of children’s services following arguments over how much of a say they should have over major staffing decisions.

The appointment will be discussed during an extraordinary full council meeting on Wednesday and councillors will vote to approve the appointment of a new children’s services director.

The role sparked arguments in the council chambers in July when councillors were asked to approve combining the key children’s services role with the responsibilities held by another director – essentially making it a part-time job.

Councillors were angered that they had been asked to approve the change just two days before the previous children’s services director left and many warned it could impact the protection of the borough’s most vulnerable children.

As a result, the majority chose to vote against the change in protest but as it is a legal requirement for the council to have someone in the position, the council’s chief executive Lyn Carpenter was forced to push through the change temporarily against their will.

At the time, the council’s management team argued that recruitment of a full-time replacement would be lengthy and extremely challenging, forcing them to offer the “top level” pay grade of £147,501.

But councillors insisted that the council begins the recruitment process for a replacement as soon as possible and documents show that the recruitment process has taken just two months with the process starting in September and concluding on Monday.

A report published ahead of the meeting does not confirm final details of the salary on offer.

The council’s management staff has argued that if the roles were permanently combined, an estimated £192,000 could have been saved and reinvested into social care.

The dispute resulted in councillors voting in October to change the constitution to give themselves greater power over future staffing issues.

Deputy leader Shane Hebb told councillors: “It outlines a series of binding constitutional changes to ensure that members are always in the centre of these conversations and decisions cannot be taken without our knowledge and without our say.”

Other staffing changes expected to be approves on Wednesday include the appointment of a new director of place and an assistant director of legal and monitoring.

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