I think it’s fair to say Wandsworth’s poor Ofsted report has been a big shock for many, including me. While I might have my differences with the council, it has always been a good, competent, council. Even when I disagreed with what it was doing (and even when I was part of the leadership, I didn’t always think it was right) I couldn’t deny it did it well.

If I am really honest, I would say I expected to see mistakes being made (I remember a few years ago highlighting the risks that were inherent in the massive changes the council were making, politically and administratively) but not in something as important as children’s services. Looking after vulnerable children is about the most important responsibility of the council.

Reading through the Ofsted report, there was one thing that really stuck out to me. In a report that found the council inadequate we discover:

The local authority self-assessment, dated June 2015 and completed in anticipation of this inspection, assessed most services as good. This is inaccurate.

To me, this is the most worrying aspect of the report. At best it indicates a lack of self-awareness. At worst it indicates a cultural problem in which the belief that Wandsworth is a top-performing council overrides evidence to the contrary. So when the evidence was gathered, people were too ready to accept the good and dismiss the bad.

That self-belief has always been incredibly strong at the council. To give an example, Wandsworth never, to my knowledge, took up any opportunities of peer development from the Local Government Association (although it would generously allow other councils to come to SW18 to learn from it). Suggestions from newer, more naïve councillors, that we might want to learn from elsewhere was usually met with scoffing laughter and then a gentle explanation that other councils come to learn from us.

Even coming to write this, I started off by talking about how good the council once was: it’s the easy, default, stance to take.

However, perhaps the Ofsted report will give a kickstart to an improvement process that benefits all of Wandsworth. A sense of crisis often allows previously unseen leadership to flourish; already it seems there’s more willingness to see what it can learn from others. Perhaps this will help arrest that headlong slide into being just another council.

Alan Thornhill's work being explained at the launch of the Putney Sculpture Trail last September
Alan Thornhill's work being explained at the launch of the Putney Sculpture Trail last September

One of the interesting things about blogging is the little things it throws up.

My post about the Battersea Park Act of Remembrance prompted an email about the state of the statue which, in turn, prompted discussion about the way the council ‘advertises’ the public art.

While we have various various publications about heritage trails around the borough and even a specific sculpture trail in Putney there isn’t a single listing of all the public art available. Until now(ish).

Creating a list was on the council’s to-do list, and this brought the creation of a web version up to the top of the list.

You can now see a listing of Wandsworth’s art on the council’s website. It’s a work in progress, most notably the Putney Sculpture Trail needs adding in and some of the descriptions are incomplete (a software hiccough I’m told). I’ve raised the ones I’ve spotted with the council, so they will hopefully be fixed soon.

There are some real gems in there, my favourite being ‘Ten Stone Carved Plaques on Nine Houses‘ – a set of faces on houses in Battersea Church Road, about which the council knows nothing! Can you add any information?