Children’s services run by Birmingham City Council are continuing to perform badly, education watchdog Ofsted said yesterday.

The ruling is a major setback for council leaders who insist huge improvements have been made since the Government said a year ago that services for children at risk of sexual and physical abuse were inadequate.

The council’s children’s social care department was placed under an improvement notice at the start of the year.

Bosses are hopeful that the must-do-better order will be lifted in 2010, despite a recent scrutiny inquiry which found children’s services to be unfit for purpose.

The “performing poorly” rating by Ofsted applies to all of Birmingham’s children’s services, including schools.

But the bad ranking is driven by continuing problems in social services.

A council spokesman said it was disappointing that Ofsted had not recognised a “raft of improvements” put in place in recent months.

He pointed out that Birmingham achieved its best ever school exam results this year, with GCSE attainment above the national average.

Councillor Les Lawrence, cabinet member for children, said: “It is disappointing to see that Ofsted has applied its ‘performing poorly’ judgement to all of children’s services.

“We believe this is unfair. This fails to take account of the tremendous strides we have made in the last year,” he said.

Tony Howell, strategic director for children, young people and families, said: “We have put a huge amount of effort into addressing the issues within children’s social care.

“We know there is more to be done and we are not complacent. But there is now a genuine feeling of change and progress within the service which this Ofsted pronouncement does not recognise.”

Perry Barr Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, an outspoken critic of Birmingham social services, said: “The council is trying to wriggle its way out of this damning judgement by using PR waffle. They are bringing in expensive consultants when they should be improving working conditions for front-line staff.”