Petition seeks dismissal of two Central Beds councillors from executive posts amid SEND troubles
Over 250 people have signed a petition calling for the removal of two Central Beds councillors from their executive posts.
In February, serious weaknesses were identified in Central Bedfordshire Council's special education needs and disability (SEND) service, after a joint inspection by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.
Since then, campaigners such as Central Bedfordshire SEND Action Group have been at loggerheads with the council over its SEND provision.
Now, a petition is calling for the removal of Cllr Sue Clark, CBC executive member for children's services, and her deputy Cllr Amanda Dodwell.
The petition stated: "We believe that Cllr Sue Clark and Cllr Amanda Dodwell have failed to understand the depth of the SEND crisis, and we have no confidence in their abilities to turn around their department.
"We the undersigned ask the Leader of the Council to dismiss both councillors from the executive with immediate effect.
"Long before the Ofsted/CQC inspection, SEND families in Central Bedfordshire were fighting for a suitable education for their children. This has resulted in the emotional and financial destruction of many SEND families."
Among other concerns, the petition claims that:
> Many children with special needs had no school place at the start of term;
> Children are returning to mainstream placements where their needs can't be met and their mental health will suffer;
> Families are paying tens of thousands of pounds to fight CBC at tribunals;
> Some families have felt forced to educate their children at home due to a lack of options.
Cllr Amanda Dodwell has described previous calls for resignations as "political grandstanding", while one man contacted this newspaper to complain the petition should be directed at the council officer in charge of the service, instead of elected members.
One parent, Rebecca from Sandy, said: “I signed the petition because I have been to meetings where there has been a lot of talk about change but I don’t see it in their actions.
“I have watched meetings of the children’s services overview and scrutiny committee where a number of the councillors don’t seem to accept, despite failing the OFSTED/CQC inspection, that there is a problem.
“Cllr Clark thinks we have a good service. I have spent the past year trying to get my son’s EHCP written lawfully. The most recent amendment was issued this week and still isn’t quantified and specific, and therefore not legally enforceable.”
On behalf of both councillors, Cllr Sue Clark stated: "Amanda Dodwell and I are very aware that from the 7,500 young people in Central Bedfordshire with forms of special educational needs and disabilities, there are families who continue to have concerns about the services and support they need.
"We are very sorry that we have families who feel let down by our service and together with our NHS partners, we are working hard to deliver lasting improvements right across the service.
"We are 100% committed to develop a service we can all be proud of. Improvements of this nature can take time, but we are determined to improve our services as quickly as possible and we have every intention of seeing the work through until we have achieved this."
The petition (see here) closes on October 9 and will be presented to Central Beds Council's executive meeting on October 13.