Row erupts over low 'troubled families' figures

PUBLISHED: 12:00 29 September 2013

North Somerset Council.

North Somerset Council.

Archant

LIBERAL Democrat councillors in North Somerset have attacked the local authority over figures which show it has 'turned around' the lives of only 1.3 per cent of the families identified as 'troubled' in 2013.

Statistics released by the Department for Communities and Local Government revealed North Somerset Council had only successfully helped four out of 305 families judged as troubled by the end of July.

LibDem group leader Mike Bell says the ruling Conservative group must do more to help these families, who are singled out for help because of problems with crime or antisocial behaviour, or low income.

He said: “Jeremy Blatchford and his Conservative colleagues have to take these issues seriously. It needs to be driven up the agenda.

“Either there’s a management issue or a political will issue that’s holding that up. Either way, responsibility lies with people at the top.

“This is funding that has been made available by the Government in the last year or so and clearly we are not using it effectively.

“It is not just the families directly affected but a lot of this is linked to antisocial behaviour and crime created by people in those families. So there is a wider impact on the community.”

But Labour councillor Richard Tucker criticised the way the LibDems approached the statistics, accusing the party of hypocrisy due to its role in the current coalition’s cuts.

He said: “I think there’s a wider picture. For Liberals to point the finger at their coalition colleagues when they are complicit is a little hypocritical. They are hand in glove. Many opposition parties might vote together in many councils but ultimately we have got to look at the bigger picture.”

The Tories’ executive member for children and young people’s services Jeremy Blatchford explained that the authority is currently playing catch-up due to a key officer leaving the project for family reasons, but insisted it is on-track to return to good performance.

He said: “A very capable officer in charge was experiences a particularly distressing family event. He felt unable to continue and we brought in experienced staff to share the programme.

“We recovered the situation and brought new elements online and we expect to be in our usual place of the top 20 authorities by the end of the financial year.

“Key has been the ability to integrate our partner agencies into one task group. Effective use of resources was never in doubt, programmes like this need to be evaluated when they are mature, not still building up.”

“We are dealing with real families facing complex problems. The families in the most difficult position are going to take the longest time to turn around. That’s the harsh reality.”

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