Two former councillors have hit out at a “deep-seated corporate dysfunction” at Herefordshire Council, leading to “deteriorating services for children and their families”, which a Government-appointed inspector has failed to pick up on.

Phillip Howells and Jennie Hewitt, the chair and vice-chair respectively of Herefordshire Council’s children and young people’s scrutiny committee until losing their seats in May, claim in a new report that children’s commissioner Eleanor Brazil, appointed following an Inadequate rating of the county’s children’s services last summer, has since been holding the wrong people to account.

They say Ms Brazil’s initial report published at the start of March lets the top people at the council off the hook.


Ms Brazil “has chosen not to address the toxic organisational culture which has undermined multiple attempts at improvement over the years”, they write, leaving children’s services to “continue to fail the families of Herefordshire”.

But Ms Brazil has hit back at the ex-councillors’ claims, calling them “unhelpful, malicious, ill-informed and lacking any foundation in fact”.

Hereford Times: Children's commissioner Eleanor BrazilChildren's commissioner Eleanor Brazil (Image: LDRS)

She said that on the contrary, her report “goes into detail about the longstanding and multi-faceted failings of leadership” at the council.

And she rejected the claim that she had instead blamed the parents affected, pointing to the commission she set up “to give families an opportunity to explain what had happened to them”.


She also hit back at the ex-councillors’ wider claim that “significant gaps [in her report] put at risk the goal of protecting the children and families of Herefordshire from harm”, calling this “ridiculous”.

And she claimed that, contrary to claims in Mr Howells’ and Ms Hewitt’s report, she had been “clear and open about my previous involvement in Herefordshire [Council]”, in whose adult services department she previously worked.

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The report by the two also blame former council leader Coun David Hitchiner for failing to hold chief executive Paul Walker to account for the lack of improvement in children’s services, which as leader he alone was in a position to do.

Hereford Times: Herefordshire Council chief executive Paul Walker and former council leader Coun David Hitchiner, both of whom are accused of shortcomings by the former councillorsHerefordshire Council chief executive Paul Walker and former council leader Coun David Hitchiner, both of whom are accused of shortcomings by the former councillors (Image: Herefordshire Council)

Coun Hitchiner said in response: “As leader, I consistently held the chief executive to account and encouraged him to do the same with his team.

“I am pleased with the foundations that we rebuilt over the past two years.”

Meanwhile the A Common Bond group of parents in the county is calling for a public enquiry into the department’s failings, which it says “are still occurring”, with families and children “still not heard”.