The email below from Cornwall Council’s Chief Executive speaks for itself. The Council has serious questions to answer.
This is the main authority in Cornwall charged with child protection and yet at some point in 2009, it seems that someone decided not to take any action over an ‘adverse entry’ related to Alex Folkes and child protection that arose as a result of a CRB check.
So who made that decision and how? Most of us would think it unacceptable. Where does the buck stop and does that person have any responsibility for child protection in Cornwall?
The ‘issue’ has been raised again recently with the council and thankfully, the response this time was much different. Following an investigation John Pollard, the Council Leader, responded decisively and told Cllr Folkes to resign from the Cabinet or be sacked. His rather curt email in response to the resignation now makes sense.
It is absolutely right that the council is investigating that original decision in 2009. It is a real shock to think this has been swept under the carpet for five years and what the consequence might have been.
It is also just weird to wonder what on earth Cllr Folkes thinks he is doing: clinging to elected office and hoping this will blow over? He has weathered the threat of legal action over unpaid council tax and a public legal dispute with a former landlady. None of us are perfect but this is on a different level and it will not away. Reading the statements from Cornwall Council – which must be legally on solid ground – will make many people fear the worst.
And what of the Lib Dems? Surely they have moved to suspend Cllr Folkes’ membership right away? No? Why not?
UPDATE: to be fair to Alex Folkes, this is his version of events on his blog. His membership of the Lib Dems has been suspended while this is being investigated.
Email from the Chief Executive of Cornwall Council:
Please see the information below relating to the resignation of Councillor Folkes. This is likely to become public knowledge through the press sometime today. We have been unable to release this information until now because of legal advice.
On 16 October, the Council received information raising serious child protection concerns relating to Alex Folkes and immediately launched a formal investigation into the circumstances. In view of the potential seriousness of the issues raised, Councillor Folkes was asked to stay away from the Council whilst the investigation was carried out by senior officers from the authority in consultation with other agencies.
As a result of the information which came to light during this investigation, the Leader of Cornwall Council, John Pollard, decided that Councillor Folkes could not continue to carry out his Cabinet responsibilities and demanded that he either resigned with immediate effect or he would remove him from his role as the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources. The Council received his resignation on 4 November.
Although the concerns arose in relation to specific incidents which occurred in 2003 and, therefore, before Councillor Folkes became a member of Cornwall Council, the authority has an overriding responsibility to safeguard the welfare of children and young people in Cornwall. The Director of Education, Health and Social Care has, therefore, written to schools and children’s settings in the Launceston area to alert them to the potential risk posed by Councillor Folkes.
Following the 2009 unitary elections, some Council officers became aware of an adverse entry on a CRB disclosure form relating to Councillor Folkes. The way the matter was dealt with at that time is now subject to an internal investigation.
The Council totally condemns any action which poses a threat to children, but does not have the legal power to remove Alex Folkes from his position as an elected councillor. Nevertheless, I have written to Councillor Folkes urging him to resign from the Council with immediate effect.