Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby has given his backing the politician and an official at the centre of criticism over the Khyra Ishaq scandal.
Coun Whitby (Con, Harborne) said he continued to support Les Lawrence, the cabinet member for children, young people and families, and Tony Howell, the strategic director who has overall responsibility for children’s social services in the face of widespread calls for their resignations. But his support for the two was confined to a terse one line: “I have confidence in Coun Les Lawrence and Tony Howell.”
His comment followed the release of a Family Court judgment on care proceedings for Khyra’s siblings, which was highly critical of Birmingham social workers and education officials.
The report found that Khyra could have been saved from a painful and gruesome death if the council had used legal powers to demand entry to the house in Handsworth where she was being imprisoned. Instead, education officials wrongly claimed they could take no action.
Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) added that he was “sadly disappointed” when Birmingham children’s services was issued with a government improvement notice a year ago.
He pointed out that since then he has chaired a “dedicated task force” to turn the department around.
Members include Coun Lawrence, other senior councillors, city chief executive Stephen Hughes and government representatives.
Coun Whitby added: “Underpinned by extra government funding to reinforce the management team, we have been driving performance improvements.
“Significant improvements have been made in national targets.
“All our children’s homes, bar one, have now been brought up to an adequate standard and we await the result of the final inspection.”
He said he could make no further comment until the findings of a Serious Case Review are known.