CHESHIRE’S high-performing education and child care services are at risk from the “chaos and confusion” that will result from the Hazel Blears’ decision to split the county.
That is the hard-hitting message to Education Secretary Ed Balls from the Cheshire County Council’s children’s services executive members David Rowlands and Shirley Harris.
In an open letter – copied to Prime Minister Gordon Brown – the pair express dismay at the decision and ask for the Minister’s views on major issues they say are threatening one of the county’s prized services.
Cllr Rowlands said: “The law places a duty on us to act in the best interests of the children of Cheshire. Those interests are not being fulfilled by the decision to split the county.”
He and Cllr Harris question the decision to merge the role of director of children’s services with the director of adult services and ask whether the Minister has endorsed it.
They claim the workload for one officer would be unsustainable.
The councillors add: “Political leadership will not stabilise until April 2009, at the earliest, when the two new authorities take up their powers. Many councillors will be new. Teams in children’s services will be broken up and officers separated into east and west.
“Continuity of vision and service delivery are quite clearly at severe risk.”
The councillors warn services are at greater risk from the independently verified “financial instability” of the two new authorities, which they claim means they will run out of money in their first year.
They write: “It is said HM Treasury has concerns. This, together with the immense costs of such massive change – by Cheshire’s Council Taxpayers – and the need to duplicate bureaucracy in order to create two smaller children’s services authorities from one large one should give us cause for serious thought.”
Finally they pose the question: “Is there any evidence that people – rather than a few politicians – want Cheshire split so that we can be neatly aligned, East with Manchester, and West with Liverpool?
“This is not localism. East and West Cheshire have far more in common with each other. The Government should at least admit that.”
Cllrs Rowlands and Harris want concerned members of the Cheshire public to write to the Minister, to their local Cheshire MP and sign-up to a petition on the Downing Street website called petitions.pm.gov.uk/SaveCheshire/
This currently has more than 400 signatures.