"THE gloves are off" when it comes to making sure Bradford's Children's Services are up to scratch, the head of a committee has warned Council bosses.

Bradford Council's Children's Services Scrutiny Committee - set up to oversee work done by the authority's Children's Services department - met on Wednesday to discuss the work being done to turn around the department since the release of a damning Ofsted report that judged the service "inadequate."

Members raised concerns that Council bosses had "conned" the committee by failing to reveal how much strain the service was under. And its chair, Councillor Mike Gibbons (Con, Ilkley), warned bosses they would be doing all they can to hold them to account, adding: "The gloves are off, if you forgive the informality."

After the Ofsted inspection Michael Jameson, Strategic Director of Children's Services, stood down. He has been replaced by an interim director, Gladys Rhodes White OBE, who attended Wednesday's meeting.

The committee, which meets every few weeks, receives regular updates on the caseloads of children's social workers. Although these updates have hinted at pressures in the system due to too few experienced staff, members believe the true picture later exposed by Ofsted had been majorly underplayed at these meetings.

The Ofsted report found that the service had rapidly deteriorated, partly due to the number of skilled social workers leaving the Council.

Councillor David Ward (Independent, Bolton and Undercliffe), said: "We have looked at the issue of children's social worker workloads about six or seven times in the last few years. I think it had just become a tick-box exercise. It is a very quantitative analysis. It's all very interesting, but we have never been able to see the quality of the service we offer.

"We need that information if we are to make sure what happened at the last inspection doesn't happen again. It is about knowing what we need to know to do our job properly.

"I asked for a staff survey at five consecutive meetings. I felt that was important to us to have to allow us to fulfil our responsibility.

"When you look at the report given to use in July and compare it to the opening lines of the Ofsted report just a few months later, you can see why we're so angry. I felt conned."

Reports had found that there was a high turnover in social work staff, who often moved to similar but better paid roles at neighbouring Councils.

Mrs Rhodes White told members of the committee that a number of social workers had recently been recruited by the Council.

When members raised the issue of high staff turnaround, she said: "If there are any social workers leaving then I want to speak with them personally. I want to know the reasons they are leaving."

Referring to Cllr Ward's comments she said: "We have to give you the information you need."

Jim Hopkinson, Deputy Director for Children's Social Care, was asked what the Council could do to retain social workers when other councils offered much better pay. He replied: "That is a very insightful question. Unless we continue to enhance the remuneration of our social workers then we will continue to struggle."

Cllr Gibbons added: "I believe it is time that we begin to receive answers in full to the questions we ask. Not just that, we need to dig deeper with these questions. We need to receive all the information necessary."