Friday 10 December 2021

OPINION PIECE: Cllr Butt should think again about Brent Cabinet responsibility for safeguarding after Arthur Labinjo-Hughes' death

I checked with Brent Council today after the Kilburn Times wrote that Cllr Margaret McLennan, Deputy Leader, was taking over Cllr Mili Patel's portfolio.  Patel stepped down from her role on Monday. I had been told something different by a usually reliable source at the council:

Could you clarify the details of which Cabinet members are taking over/sharing Cllr Patel’s portfolio as clearly Safeguarding is extremely importance as highlighted by the recent child murder case. The Kilburn Times has quoted Cllr McLennan as taking over the entire portfolio while I understood from my sources that it was shared between Cllr Stephens and Cllr Farbi.

I suspect it has been split between them and if so could you say who is responsible for each aspect.

Brent Council replied that they stood by their previous statement:

"Councillor Mili Patel has stepped down from her cabinet role to take time out. Deputy Leader, Councillor Margaret McLennan, will take over the portfolio.”

This give me cause for concern, not because I doubt Cllr McLennan's commitment and ability regarding safeguarding, but because of the responsibilities she already has, particularly at a time when she is working on the Council's budget for 2022-21.

This is now her portfolio with Cllr Patel's responsibilities added:

  • Finance / HR
  • IT / Digital transformation
  • Council Tax
  • Business Rates
  • Customer Services
  • Citizenship &Registration
  • Community Hubs
  • Legal
  • Performance
  • Members Enquiries / FOI / Complaints
  • Social Value
  • Equalities
  • Procurement
  • Safeguarding & Looked After Children / YOT
  • Social Work Teams
  • Early Help & Children’s Centres
  • Youth Service & Connexions
  • Troubled Families
  • Safeguarding in Schools
  • Corporate Parenting
  • SEND Pupil Referral Units
  • Alternative Education
  • Youth Parliament

 The case of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes highlighted not just the dramatic impact of lockdown on family life and the impact of the loss of the usual monitoring by schools of vulnerable children, but also the years of cuts and under-investment in children's services.

These are dangerous times for children and could be a life and death matter. In Brent we have to remember the case of Victoria Climbie LINK and ensure that such a case does not happen again.

Over my career in education I have been responsibile both as a teacher and a governor for Safeguarding, Child Protection and Looked After Children. I thought that the splitting of responsibilities, that complemented existing ones held by Cllr Thomas and Farbi, was a sensible idea if it was not practical to appoint a replacement for Cllr Patel.

We do not know what the winter holds in terms of further lockdowns and potential school closures, but things do not look good. I urge Council leader Muhammed Butt to think again for the sake of our children.


Unknown said...

Yes...the amount of time a person has to devote to this must make a big difference.

Trevor said...

I must say that I share your concern, given the amount of things that Cllr Margaret McLennan will be taking up in addition to her role as Deputy Leader.

Anonymous said...

It is quite frightening/worring having her in the role never mind the size rest of the porfolio. Still at least it's not Tower Block Tatler at the helm

Anonymous said...

My understanding is Cllr Stephens lost the brief as word got around to Cllr Butt that Cllr Stephens is certainly not lacking in ambition, as you emphasised when you first broke the news.