FAILINGS going back years at Herefordshire’s children’s services department have yet to lead to anyone being held to account, it has been claimed.

Leader of the county’s Liberal Democrat councillors Terry James told colleagues: “I know of no one who has been held responsible for some horrendous things that have happened in children’s services.

“There appears to be no accountability on what has happened over the years. The response has been to defend the status quo.”

Following a highly critical High Court judgement, and then an “Inadequate” Ofsted inspection of the department in September 2022, the government put it under a regime of close official inspection and guidance.

Last month the department hosted a fourth monitoring visit from Ofsted inspectors, with a report due on March 27.

Council leader Coun Jonathan Lester said he had been told this “identified areas of continuing improvement as well as ongoing areas where we need to step up the pace of progress”.

Coun Ben Proctor asked him: “This is a service that affects people’s lives, and the pace of improvement is very important. What are you going to do differently, now that the improvement adviser [Gladys Rhodes White] has left?”

Coun Lester said a replacement special adviser “will be forthcoming”, adding that when the Ofsted report comes out, “we will explain to colleagues where the problems still lie and what our strategy is to deal with that”.

“The failings of the past are never going away, the important thing is how we deal with matters now,” he added.

Children’s services was also visited earlier this month by Department for Education permanent secretary Susan Acland-Hood.

Upton Bishop-based North Herefordshire MP Sir Bill Wiggin, who has long been critical of the department, said this arose from concerns he raised last month with minister for children and families David Johnston MP.

Ms Acland-Hood’s visit was “exactly what is needed to take a vital step towards fixing this dire department once and for all”, he said.

He added: “,I shall not stop drawing attention to the huge numbers of children in care until our council are able to compare favourably with other local authorities of similar size.”