Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Alex Folkes: Report

I requested that this matter was the subject of an independent review.

Mrs Lowton, who, I understand is a solicitor and expert on child care law, undertook the review. Her report, published today, has identified a number of areas in which mistakes have been made by the Council in 2005, 2010, 2013 and 2014.

She has also made recommendations on where the Council's procedures for dealing with safeguarding issues should be improved.

Reviewing the conclusion of the LADO (Council's safeguarding) process was outside Mrs Lowton' s terms of reference and she has not therefore reviewed the evidence that the LADO considered.

However, she has said that 'the LADO process was swift and decisions were made which were reasonable in all the circumstances'. In her view the evidence gathering was comprehensive, independent legal advice was sought, the membership of the LADO committee was reasonable and their decision was unanimous.

She explicitly rejects the argument that the LADO committee was a 'kangaroo court'.

She believes that the Metropolitan Police Service, in initially not allowing the Council to share evidence with Cllr Folkes, failed in their duties to cooperate with child protection investigations.

She says the Council could not ignore evidence in its possession.To do nothing was not an option: Its duty was to prioritise children's welfare.

Mrs Lowton acknowledges that Cllr Folkes ' complaint to the Information Commissioner about breach of confidentiality of his personal information will be dealt with separately. She acknowledges that the fact that Cllr Folkes 'went public' in his blog and elsewhere made it more difficult for the Council to maintain confidentiality.

There also remains outstanding the Chief Executive's complaint about Cllr Folkes under the Code of Members' Conduct, which may in due course be considered by the Council's Standards Committee.

One key issue for the Council will be to consider reintroducing a safeguarding (DBS/CRB) check for all members. This policy was introduced in 2009 and for some reason was not applied after the local elections in 2013. Therefore, if Cllr Folkes had first been elected in 2013 he would not have been checked at all.

Overall, Mrs Lowton says that the Council, in its recent actions, were right to make the protection of children their key priority.

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