St Helens councillor who oversees children's services steps down

CounJoe Pearson
CounJoe Pearson

A senior Labour councillor who oversees children’s services in St Helens has stepped down.

Coun Joe Pearson, cabinet member for protecting young people and ward councillor Billinge with Seneley Green, left the post with immediate effect on Thursday.

The council said Coun Pearson stepped down for “personal reasons”.

The former mayor of St Helens will be replaced with Thatto Heath councillor Nova Charlton.

Coun Charlton will vacate her position as chairman of the children and young people’s overview and scrutiny panel.

Announcing the change, St Helens Council leader David Baines said: “I would like to thank Coun Pearson for his service and hard work as a member of the cabinet.

“Like all of us, he is dedicated to the improvement of children’s services in St Helens and I know he will continue to be champion for our children and young people.

“I am delighted that Nova Charlton will be joining the cabinet and taking on the protecting young people portfolio.

“Nova has been an outstanding scrutiny chair and a member of the children’s improvement board, looking in depth at children’s services and helping our efforts to drive up standards.

“She is a strong voice who is passionate about children and young people, and she will be fantastic in the role.”

Councillors were informed of the change via email late on Thursday night.

While the official reason for Coun Pearson’s departure is that he left the post due to personal reasons, a Labour source has claimed he was asked to step down.

Coun Pearson took over the portfolio, which was then the developing young people portfolio, in May 2018 following a cabinet reshuffle.

This was prior to a damming Ofsted inspection in June 2018.

In response, Ofsted issued three out of a possible four priority actions to the local authority alongside a comprehensive action plan.

Since then, children’s services has undergone a raft of changes and investment.

However, back in February a council report warned that an imminent two-week inspection of children’s services in St Helens could still rule the service ‘inadequate’.

After Coun Baines was elected as the council’s new leader in May, Coun Pearson was one of only a handful of councillors who kept his spot in the cabinet.

While progress is being made within the department, it is understood the council’s leadership felt a fresh pair of eyes was now needed.

Coun Charlton’s appointment means there has now been four councillors overseeing children’s services in four years.