The deputy mayor and former head of children’s services in Tower Hamlets has quit the council four months after an Ofsted report criticised “widespread and serious failures” in the care provided to vulnerable children in the borough.
Cllr Rachael Saunders , who represents Mile End, was moved into health and adult services shortly after the report was released in April this year. She will quit as deputy mayor and service head at the end of August and then not challenge for her seat in the next round of elections in May 2018.
Criticisms levelled at the council by Ofsted included insufficient services for children in care, poor leadership and management and assessments failing to establish whether children had been trafficked or abandoned.
The report added : “The local authority as a whole has failed to ensure professional accountability and, as a result, too many children have remained in neglectful and abusive situations for too long.”
However, Cllr Saunders insisted her reason for standing down is because of starting a new job which would not leave her time to be a cabinet member and criticised the service she inherited from disgraced former mayor Lutfur Rahman.
She said: “I wish that we had realised when we took over just how big some of the issues left behind by Lutfur Rahman were, especially in children’s services.
“There were some really serious issues that will still take some time to resolve, and it would have been good to have known how big the scale of the problem was when we started. But I’m confident we’re moving in the right direction.
“When Government commissioners came to Tower Hamlets [in 2014], I was leader of the Labour group. It was a really difficult time but it was also a huge relief.
"It meant the corruption of Lutfur Rahman was being taken seriously. And it was great when they left as well, because it meant we were back on the right path.
“[Mayor] John Biggs has put Tower Hamlets on a stable footing and it’s a great opportunity for new Labour candidates to step forward.”
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