It came as no surprise this week to hear that all nine of Norfolk's MPs have banded together to call for the resignation of Lisa Christenson, the head of the county's Children Services department. We have written on this website several times about the activities of this woman, known locally as “Lenin”. She has presided over a team that has conspicuously failed to provide a good standard of basic education in the county's schools, and whose social workers have a reputation for hounding innocent families and snatching children away on the flimsiest of evidence.
It was Norfolk social workers who travelled to France recently to kidnap the child of Joe Ollis and Marie Black, who was born in France and had never lived anywhere else, on the excuse that Marie had once suffered abuse from a former partner in Norfolk. When told by a judge to return the child they refused because it didn't have a passport, prompting one to wonder how they got it across the Channel in the first place.
Further back we wrote a number of times about the Cromer family with a well-documented history of brittle bones. Norfolk Social Services kidnapped their three children and sent them for adoption, and the courts were ultimately powerless to get them back although the police quickly cleared the parents of any suspicion of abuse and no charges were ever brought. Then they pursued the parents to Ireland and attempted to snatch their newborn baby, though thankfully that was thwarted.
Norfolk has become the first local authority in the country to be targeted by inspectors examining how the local authority supports school improvement. In March, Ofsted undertook a blitz of school inspections in the county, with 28 primaries and secondaries visited in just one week, which found three out of every five schools assessed were not providing a good enough education to youngsters. Raising “considerable concern” over its findings, Ofsted accused the county council of failing to step in quickly enough when schools were known to be struggling.
Lenin Christenson is no stranger to controversy. Her own family life would in some areas have social workers or the police knocking at the door of her Mattishall home. In 2008 the newspapers reported “Lisa Christensen, director of children’s services in Norfolk, is the wife of Jack Prescott, who was given a 15-year prison sentence for involvement in a bomb attack on the home of a Tory Cabinet Minister. Prescott, 64 – a self-confessed former heroin addict and thief – was a founder member of the Angry Brigade, Britain’s only home-grown urban terrorist group, which carried out 25 attacks on Government buildings, embassies and corporations. His past has come to light because he was recently convicted of assaulting Ms Christensen. She failed to tell Norfolk County Council about her husband’s violent past when she was appointed head of Social Services in 2002.” We do not know whether the couple are still together.
The nine MPs, both Tory and Lib-Dem, met with children’s minister Ed Timpson before issuing their joint statement calling for an interim board to be appointed immediately, but so far Christensen has refused to resign. She is quoted as saying that it is her job to clear up the mess. Personally we would have thought her job was not to make the mess in the first place.
The cross-party release said: “The situation at children’s services is so serious that we think an interim board should take over immediately. There is a lack of leadership as demonstrated by a recent Ofsted report into the protection of children. This is too serious for a graduated approach. Action needs to be taken now to ensure that there is strong and capable management at Norfolk children’s services.”
As you might expect, Norfolk County Council are stone-walling like mad. George Nobbs, the Labour leader of the council, said: “The new administration at County Hall shares the concern expressed today by Norfolk’s MPs. Indeed, I am amazed that it has taken four months for them to reach their conclusion. I expressed my own concern at the time but the then Tory administration at County Hall didn’t seem too bothered. I’m also surprised that the MPs waited until over a week after the recent council election before meeting children’s services chiefs at County Hall. A cynic might wonder if the change of control from a Tory administration woke them up. Rest assured, this new administration needs no lessons about improving services for children from the party that has constantly failed them for the last 12 years. We are much more interested in fixing the problem than party political grandstanding,” a magnificent and cynical bit of political persiflage, attacking the MPs' message because they hadn't delivered it sooner! It seems to have escaped Nobby's attention that it was the county council's job to keep an eye on things and make sure their team was delivering, not the MPs'.
And Christenson? She's clinging on by her fingernails just as long as she can. Let's face it, every week longer that she can survive is another two and a half grand in the bank. And no doubt when she can't hang on any longer she'll have union reps arguing her right to receive a hefty golden handshake, which is pretty ironic – the Hardinghams from Cromer didn't have anyone on their side when she was pursuing the poor bastards through the Star Chamber of the family courts.
UPDATE: It was announced today (21st June 2013) that the Norfolk Witch has bowed to the inevitable and is preparing to mount her broomstick. This is of course a victory for GrumpyOldSod.com, though the nine MPs and various other agencies may have helped a bit.
Families across the county heaved a great sigh of relief at the news, but even as her bristles clear the runway Christensen is still insisting that she "decided" to go - she wasn't sacked. Amazing, isn't it, how some people can bully their way through life without ever having the humility to admit that they might have been just a teeny bit wrong?
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