Council approves creation of independent children's trust

By Joe Lepper

| 24 September 2015

Slough Council has rubber-stamped the creation of an independent trust to run its children's services after a dispute over the funding of the initiative was partly resolved.

Slough Council is to hand the running of children's services over to an independent children's trust on 30 September

Councillors had raised concerns that the amount of money Slough Children’s Services Trust wanted for its first year of operation was £2.9m more than the council had budgeted for.

Trust management had asked for £27.3m, while the council had budgeted for £24.4m.

However, at a meeting of the full council this week, the trust was approved and handed a baseline budget of £24.4m for the first 12 months, with an additional £1.5m being provided to help fund the transition of services.

It will now take over running all Slough’s children’s services from 30 September.  

According to the council papers, a further £1.4m will also be provided by the Department for Education.

The creation of the trust was ordered by the DfE last year after the council’s children’s services department was rated as “inadequate” by Ofsted in both 2011 and 2014.

Over the trust’s six-year contract, it has a five-year plan to turn around the performance of children’s services in the area. This includes gaining an Ofsted rating of “good” within three years and a rating of “outstanding” by 2020.

Elaine Simpson, a former global director of education at public sector outsourcing specialist Serco, has been named chair and its chief executive is Nicola Clemo, whose previous roles have included service director of children’s social care at Cambridgeshire County Council.

According to a report submitted to cabinet, the council remains concerned that it may need more time “to undertake effective due diligence” and “operational set up of a new entity”.

The council is also concerned there may not be enough time to hammer out the details of how the move will effect “commercial discussions” between the council, the trust and third-party providers.

The report adds: “Uncoupling a major service area from an organisation is complex and time consuming, and there are a range of matters that still require both attention and resolution.”

However, Simpson is optimistic the transition will run smoothly. She said: “I am confident the positive working relationship between the council and trust will continue, helping us complete a safe transition of services.

The DfE has stressed that the council retains the statutory role of director of children’s services and of corporate parent.

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