WIRRAL Council has denied putting children at risk after its foster service was criticised for failing to meet minimum standards in a government report.

Following two inspections in 2003, eight months apart, the number of standards not met and identified as having "major shortfalls", rose from three to four.

The inspections were carried out by the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), the new independent inspectorate for all social care services in England which replaced the National Care Standards Commission.

In a report to the council, the director of social servics, Kevin Miller, said by the second inspection those areas criticised had been improved, but inspectors found faults elsewhere.

Mr Miller said in other areas the foster service had increased the number of standards met from five to nine. Those areas with minor shortfalls decreased from 21 to 17.

But he criticised the inspectors for not giving the authority the final reports from either inspection, and leaving them to find them on a website.

The inspectors had initially said the authority needed risk assessments for foster children who had to share bedrooms, had limited numbers of foster places and youngsters not being equipped for independence.

Mr Miller said the newly-highlighted shortfalls were not related to frontline care issues.

A spokeswoman for Wirral Council said: "The points we have been picked up on are administrative, and do not mean children are at risk.

"It included things like a photo of a member of staff not being on a file and a review being only just over its three-year threshold.

"The inspectors are really looking at every detail. As far as we are concerned they are not showing up anything that could cause a risk to children within the service."

But the council had said it would challenge the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) over how the reports were dealt with.

A spokesman for the CSCI said: "We can't comment on the problems with previous reports, but the CSCI will be working with the authority to resolve any difficulties they have had." Wirral social services are currently rated one star by CSCI, along with Liverpool. Cheshire and Sefton each have two stars and Knwosley has three stars.