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The Labour party at North East Lincolnshire Council has called for the leader and his cabinet to stand down over failing children’s services.

Councillor Matthew Patrick said the ‘inadequate’ Ofsted report had been “the darkest months for this council” in a motion of no confidence. He demanded Children and Education portfolio holder councillor Ian Lindley be held to account.

The motion was defeated, with Conservatives arguing the opposition shared the blame for the dire state of children’s services. Leader of the council Philip Jackson said the authority was working hard to turn them around.

North East Lincolnshire Council’s children’s services were rated inadequate by Ofsted in November, with the watchdog warning children had been put at risk. The report criticised senior managers and decision-making.

A government inspector is due to report at the end of the month on whether children’s services should remain in the council’s hands. A new scrutiny group involving all parties has been set up to address the issues.

Labour leader councillor Patrick said: “This report suggests that children might have been beaten, made to feel worthless, abandoned and sexually attacked in ways that could have been prevented. We don’t know and may never know how many instances have occurred, and that in many ways makes this so much worse.

“For nearly three years, this happened under Councillor Lindley’s watch, and yet he is sat in this council chamber as if nothing has happened, or as though this report is somehow inaccurate or exaggerated.

“The leader of the council has seen fit to keep Councillor Lindley where he is. This sends a message to all the children mentioned who truly matters in a crisis, and it’s not them.”

Councillor Lindley insisted he wasn’t shying away from the challenges that services were facing. He called for unity in trying to improve them.

“The council was disappointed in the Ofsted judgement, and have been working extremely hard to ensure that children’s services operate in a safe, effective manner,” he said.

“Contrary to what Councillor Patrick has said, we have never been in denial about the report. We fully accept the report and its findings, and set to work on a improvement plan that focused on areas of need.

“Labour need to stop being in denial about their part in what happened, and how the services went from ‘good’ to on the verge of an improvement notice between 2017 and 2019. They are in no position to lecture this administration.”

The portfolio holder added that four social workers had recently been recruited and begun work in the last two weeks. He added that employees had been ‘simply amazing’ in attempting to turn it around.

Since the Ofsted report, a cross-party oversight group had been established, audits have been increased and a new Deputy Direct has been appointed. There have also been efforts to increase recruitment.

Councillor Jackson said that children’s services had received the biggest funding increase by percentage of any department in the three years that the Conservatives have been in power. He outlined some of the difficulties that children’s services had faced during the pandemic.

“A lot of local authorities’ children’s services have been going into stormy waters over the last two years. An improvement plan was put into place in 2019, but this was frustrated by the Covid pandemic,” he said.

“This led to an increase in referrals up and down the country. It made staff recruitment more difficult, making us overly reliant on agency workers. Face-to-face meetings became almost impossible during this time.

“The very first meeting I had with the chief executive the morning after the 2019 election was about the state of the children’s services.”

The motion was defeated along party lines. Councillor Nicola Aisthorpe, the sole Liberal Democrat, abstained.

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