The most vulnerable children in Cardiff are still not being cared for properly by its social services department, a new report has revealed.
Vulnerable children are said to be at risk
The report, from the Welsh Assembly's social services inspectorate, speaks of "inexplicable delays" in dealing with child protection cases.
Sixteen cases, almost half of those sampled, caused such concern that they have been referred for immediate review.
The inspectors were sent back to Cardiff after its social services department - the largest in Wales - received one of the worst reviews in England and Wales fourteen months ago.
At the time the running of the department was criticised as being "macho" and damaging to staff morale, and as a result the report said that children were in danger.
The new report states that although Cardiff Council has made considerable efforts to improve, services to support and protect vulnerable children are still not consistent.
It said: "Too many children were not receiving the standards of service they needed to safeguard and promote their welfare."
Jane Hutt, the Health and Social Services Minister, said the new report highlights the "gravity of problems in children's services in Cardiff, and how much remains to be done."
She said: "I am concerned that those who depend upon these services - especially vulnerable children - are not yet guaranteed a reliable and consistent response."
Mrs Hutt said that under the protocol for dealing with serious concern, the Chief Social Services Inspector, Graham Williams, would now write to Cardiff County Council setting out the improvements needed and how this will be monitored.
Cardiff Council's social services department has been criticised
She added: "At this stage I have seriously considered using my powers under Section 7A of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 to impose directions upon the Council in response to the outcome of this report."
The Conservative Health and Social Services spokesman Jonathan Morgan said it was a "disgraceful position for Cardiff Council to find themselves in."
He said: "I am appalled that this authority is still failing to secure the wellbeing of the most vulnerable children in our capital city.
"There is now a strong argument for the Assembly to intervene and remove Cardiff from the running of children's services in the capital city."
And Mr Morgan called for Ms Hutt's resignation.
He said, "The Minister is directly responsible for the appalling state of social services in Cardiff.
"She did nothing a year ago when we received the first report naming Cardiff social services as the second worst in the UK. She is doing nothing about it now.
"We have learnt from Victoria Climbie that inaction is the worst course of action.
"Quite simply she is not up to the job and must go."
The inspectors were sent back to Cardiff after the worst social services review
so far seen in Wales.
The audit report released in September 2002 found the cases of children at risk of abuse were being mishandled due to a "bullying", "macho", "arrogant" and "secretive" management culture at the local authority.
But Cardiff council's director of social services, Chris Davies, said some improvements had been made.
Asked if things were as bad as a year previously, he said: "No they are not."
He added: "Even in April when the inspection was done, the inspectors noted significant improvements in vital areas.
"I don't think it (the report) is damning.
"I think it brings attention to some big challenges the council faces.
"There are significant problems still to address."