IN A SHOCK announcement late this evening, 8th August, Cllr Rachael Saunders announced that she is resigning as Deputy Mayor and from her Cabinet position. She has also said that she will not stand again as a council candidate in May 2018 – though she will serve out her term of office as a backbench councillor until those elections.
Cllr Saunders has indicated that she has a new job, and the hours it requires from her will not allow her to fulfill her duties as a councillor. This has come as a surprise to her constituents who had always assumed she was committed to a political career first and foremost.
Cllr Rabina Khan, Leader of the People’s Alliance of Tower Hamlets (PATH) Group of Councillors, was quick to comment – attributing Cllr Saunders’ resignation to the fiasco over Children’s Services which took place recently following an Ofsted Report which was highly critical of the way the Services were functioning – and also of Cllr Saunders, the Cabinet Member responsible for them.
Cllr Khan said, “Saunders has finally accepted the inevitable. Ofsted’s report was nothing short of an indictment. It is no surprise that Saunders’s department was found to have left children at risk of harm when, according to Ofsted, she failed to turn up to a single meeting of the statutory safeguarding board she is supposed to sit on.”
Cllr Khan went on to demand that the resignation should not lead to a cover-up of what went on and how John Biggs’s Administration allowed the failure to occur and continue. She said, “We tried to call in this report with a cross party deputation at the Scrutiny Committee… The very least Saunders can do before she leaves is to agree to appear before the Committee. The public want answers – they want to know how this happened and that our kids are now safe.”
This is now the second Deputy Mayor whom John Biggs has lost in a couple of months. No announcement has yet been made on who will be taking over from Cllr Saunders in this capacity. Nor has any announcement been made about who will take over her new Cabinet position or as Chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board which oversees public health in the borough. Cllr Saunders’ resignations may have come as a surprise to the Council, which was still displaying her as Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Adult Services on Tuesday evening, after her announcement.