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How Norfolk County Council spent £1.7m on consultants and interim managers to turn children's services department around

PUBLISHED: 08:13 08 March 2017 | UPDATED: 09:25 08 March 2017

Norfolk County Council headquarters. Photo: Steve Adams

Norfolk County Council headquarters. Photo: Steve Adams

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More than £1.7m has been spent on consultants and interim bosses by Norfolk's children's services since inspectors first branded the department "inadequate", according to documents seen by this newspaper.

Since 2013, the department has had different five heads, of which three have been interims. The latest incumbent Matt Dunkley is committed to seeing the authority through to beyond the next Ofsted inspection when it is hoped it will get out of its current “inadequate” rating, although it is not known when that inspection will take place.

Payments to interim staff and agencies by the department include:

•An interim assistant director received £940 a day including expenses.

•Almost £73,000 was paid to one agency for a consultant to do six months work.

•Another £12,000 was paid to the company of a consultant.

•One interim director was paid more than £1,000 a day plus expenses

•An interim assistant director earned £940 a day

•Two other interim assistant directors were paid £650 and £600 a day.

A council spokesperson said: “There is a national market for interim directors of children’s services and we have paid and continue to pay competitive rates for such services as part of a contracts with national recruitment agencies who specialise in filling such positions.”

But Jonathan Dunning, branch secretary for Unison at Norfolk County Council, said: “We have, for a period of time, been challenging the use of interims when they are on top of existing staff establishment.

“If they are a short-term appointment for a specific project that’s one thing, but if they are not, then questions have to be asked about whether this is providing good value for money.

“We have seen reductions in front line services over the past five or six years and to see these kinds of figures being spent on interims, you have to question whether they have got their priorities right.”

The latest two managers to be brought in at children’s services are Graham Genoni and Jean Imray - former assistant directors of children’s services departments. They were recruited at the start of January.

A spokesperson for the council said Ms Imray was employed because it had “become apparent that we need additional capacity within the leadership team to enable us to work on the required activities to deliver at pace and with the required rigour”.

Mr Genoni was recruited to push forward the partnership between the council and Barnardo’s which, as revealed yesterday, stalled when the Department for Education rejected a £7m bid to fund it.

The spokesperson added: “Both Graham and Jean bring a wealth of experience in driving forward service development and improvement and are a very welcome addition to the department.”

The other senior officers in the department are: Chris Snudden (assistant director for education), Don Evans (assistant director for performance and challenge), Cathy Mouser (assistant director for social work), Elly Starling (HR business partner), Bruce Connors (interim finance business partner). Sal Thirlway (assistant director for early help) left in January.

TOMORROW: Day five of our investigation into children’s services

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