Page last updated at 18:53 GMT, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

More than 300 children 'at risk'

Mayor Martin Winter
Mayor Martin Winter refused to stand down from his post at the meeting

More than 300 youngsters are at risk of abuse in Doncaster, a crisis meeting into the state of the town's child protection services has heard.

The emergency meeting was called by councillors after serious case reviews were ordered into the deaths of seven children in Doncaster since 2004.

It was told 317 children were on child protection plans, which replaced the child protection register last year.

The town's mayor Martin Winter refused to resign despite calls for him to go.

One council member said Mr Winter was "ducking and diving" to avoid responsibility over the issues.

Mr Winter said councillors were "too quick to blame him" over the problems.

I think he's ducking and diving
Councillor Garth Oxby

Council members had previously called for Mr Winter to resign over the case.

At one stage the chairman of the committee responsible for children's services wept as he spoke, reported BBC News correspondent Chris Buckler.

Councillor Allan Jones broke down as he was speaking during the extraordinary session of the town's council.

During the fractious meeting some councillors shouted "rubbish" as the mayor accused them of being too quick to blame him.

Councillor Garth Oxby, leader of the Independent Alliance group, said the mayor was "ducking and diving" to avoid culpability for the issues raised by an Ofsted inspection last month.

He said: "We're not wishing to politicise the matter today, despite what the mayor says. I've tried to keep the politics out of today because there are children's issues to discuss."

"I can go back many years in this town and in local government and I know what we had and I know what we have now, and it doesn't pass muster with me.

'Accept responsibility'

"I think the mayoral system, under the present executive and that is mayor Winter, have failed this town for the past seven years.

"Doncaster Borough Council are supposed to co-ordinate these matters and I think they've singularly failed to do that."

Mr Winter did admit he had to accept some blame for the failures to protect vulnerable children.

"Quite simply, I have to accept that, with all matters, as President Truman said, the buck stops here and the buck stops with me," he said.

"And I have to accept a certain level of responsibility."

He said children's services were multi-disciplinary, with medical services pinpointed as being at fault in the case of some of the youngsters' deaths.

'All guilty'

He added that he had not been properly informed at an early enough stage of the problems, and said: "Whether the council members in this chamber believe it or not is irrelevant.

"The simple fact is that we are all guilty of being misinformed at one level or another."

Councillors questioned the lack of improvement in services between the death of the first child in 2004 and the Ofsted inspection last year, as well as a lack of transparency within the authority and cost-cutting exercises within children's services.

Last month Ofsted was highly critical of children's services in the town, rating them as among the UK's worst.

Of the seven deaths being examined in serious case reviews, two of the children were murdered by their fathers and four were under the age of one at the time of their deaths.


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