Children’s services boss Sue Imbriano has defended her £143,000 pay packet, despite her department being slammed by Ofsted inspectors.
The director of children’s services, who is due to retire from her post in September after eight-and-a-half years in the job, is the second highest paid member of Bucks County Council.
When asked by The Bucks Herald how she could justify such a high salary when her department was failing she said: “I absolutely understand that people reading this will want to ask that question and that will be the uppermost in their minds, but of course there are salary ranges for jobs people do.
“But what I don’t want to do is detract from the job in hand, and that is about what we need to do.
“And we know what we need to do around improvements to children’s services.
“In the eight-and-a-half years I have been the director of children’s services in Buckinghamshire I have been absolutely clear about the points for our children and young people, and getting things as right as we can.
“We know we have big improvements to make and that is what we are intent on now.”
And Mrs Imbriano outlined ways in which the department would work to improve, both before and after her exit.
She said: “We identified a number of these issues prior to Ofsted coming in, so we already have improvements in place.
“In the autumn of last year we brought in additional capacity and had a number of reviews of the processes and workflows from one team to the other, we made some changes there.
“We also brought in additional capacity to make a work improvement plan to work with colleagues on how we record what we do.”
She added: “These are the areas that are absolutely vital to get right and we have got a series of improvements which of course we will build on and accelerate to respond to the Ofsted findings.”
Angela MacPherson, portfolio holder for services at Bucks County Council responded to criticisms in the report that safeguarding children was not a priority for the authority.
She said: “I really must emphasise that as a local authority our corporate plan has identified a suite of eight priorities, strategically, and uppermost in these priorities is safeguarding and protecting the vulnerable.
“And we don’t just mean our children, who are of course a very large priority, but vulnerable adults as well.
“So we don’t rank priorities in Buckinghamshire in any way whatsoever.”
When asked where money will be found within the cash-strapped council to fund the vital improvements within the service she said: “We will be looking at an improvement plan which will address more of the issues that Ofsted has raised, which we had already previously identified.”
“As a local authority and a county we have huge financial pressures and have had to reduce budgets by over 40% over previous years, with still more to do.
“So there are massive pressures and huge competing priorities within the county council.
“We are very mindful from this Ofsted report that we will need to have robust discussions around the funding of childrens services going forward, and I will make sure that happens because we have to deliver on this Ofsted report regarding improvements to our services.”
And when asked by the service was still failing, despite operating over its budget in the last financial year, Cllr MacPherson claimed that the department had been put under pressure by a large amount of new referrals and children needing to be taken into care last year.
She said: “Last year we saw an unprecedented rise in demand for our services.
“We saw a doubling of referrals into our front door and also many more children coming into our care, we had to react to that.
“I have recently been looking at how my budget is composed and considering how it will cope with the demand that we are seeing and will be speaking with members of the cabinet to make the case for more resources.”