When he’s not whingeing about “cuts” Sandwell’s council leader is making excuses for poor performance by the council.
The whingeing is meaningless ritual; Eling plans to spend £27.6 million on swimming baths to be built on a Smethwick green field site, he boasts that frontline services have been maintained and that the Local Government Association has declared Sandwell’s finances sound. So what’s his beef?
As threadbare as his complaints are his excuses. Recently, a report of school truanting revealed Sandwell had more kids “missing” from school than any other black country borough. The number in Sandwell was 656 compared with 34 in Wolverhampton. “Missing” is defined as being absent from school for at least a month or a shorter period for “vulnerable” children and the figures are for this academic year.
Eling’s bland explanation was that kids were away from school for a number of reasons and it was only a small proportion of Sandwell’s school population. Well councillor, in Wolverhampton there’s a very much smaller proportion of kids absent, so that excuse won’t wash. Then he resorted to statistics with the justification that only 75 kids are “missing” at any one time. Apart from the adage about “lies, damned lies and statistics”, simple maths tells us that “any one time” in Sandwell is still more than double the Wolverhampton figure for the whole year.
More significant than Eling juggling figures is the fact that he expressed no concern about the situation. Sandwell’s Childrens’ Service is irretrievably broken, judged by Ofsted inadequate and exposing children to risk rather than protecting them. Children who do not attend school regularly frequently under achieve academically. Apart from this they are likely to be at risk of abuse and exploitation and may drift into crime and anti-social behaviour.
This should be cause for concern and lead to an examination of the effectiveness of the council’s truanting team. The smug self satisfaction of Cllr Eling is breath taking. His lack of concern for these children reprehensible.
An illustration of how incompetently Sandwell is run, came last week when a former council employee pleaded guilty to defrauding the council. While he had a full time job at the council, he took a second job with the NHS, working there, it’s alleged, between 15-30 hours per week. Startlingly, he managed to get away with it for 8 years. His job title was “People and Talent Consultant”. Suggestive of over-manning, non jobs and lax supervision?
We’re waiting for the Eling explanation.