Calderdale leader who transformed children's services to step down after eight years

Councillor Megan Swift
Councillor Megan Swift

The Calderdale Council Cabinet member who has helped oversee the transformation of the borough’s children’s and young people’s services over the last eight years is stepping down from the role.

Councillor Megan Swift took over the key post in 2011 when children’s services were rated by Ofsted as “inadequate” and with councillors, officers and staff has seen them transformed to a rating of “good with outstanding features” at the most recent inspection late last year.

She said a number of health issues had shaped her decision to step down, with her replacement expected to be announced along with other Cabinet positions later this week.

Coun Swift (Lab, Town) said she was leaving the role at a time when much had been achieved and other important projects, including replacement of school buildings, and the development of a new Sixth Form Centre for Calderdale in Halifax, were in place.

“When I became Lead Member, our children’s services were rated inadequate and there was a real threat that they would be taken over by Central Government.

“Thanks to the hard work of both staff and elected members alike, we were able to avoid this and the most recent Ofsted report found that the services are now good with some outstanding features.

“Over the last year, we have also seen the completion of several important investments, including the new sixth form facility at Ravenscliffe.

“This is a partnership between the council and the school, and one that I have championed from the start.

“We have also completed replacement schools at Copley, Moorside and Ferney Lee, as well as the new teaching block at Todmorden High School,” said Coun Swift.

She said she was immensely proud of the role she had played as Lead Member over the past eight years,improving the outcomes for Calderdale’s young people at a time when budgets to provide services had been shrinking.

“I am incredibly grateful that I have had the opportunity to contribute to promoting the interests and well being of children and young people in Calderdale.

“I am proud that despite the huge challenge of austerity, we have been able to protect our children’s centres and I have no doubt that our investment in early help is not only the right thing to do, but also played an important part in the improvements in our Children’s Services,” she said.

Creation of the new Sixth Form Centre would plug an important gap in Calderdale’s education choices for its young people, said Coun Swift.

“Finally, this year we have put in place the plans to create a new sixth form centre in Halifax.

“This will enable more of our young people to get a great post 16 education in Calderdale, and hopefully mean that less of them feel they have to go outside of Calderdale for their opportunities,” she said.

Coun Swift said health issues had convinced her the time was now right to leave the role.

“Unfortunately over the last year I have had a number of health problems and at the moment these have not been fully diagnosed.

“So for these reasons I have decided that now is the right time to stand down from Cabinet.

“I am very grateful to all the brilliant staff that I have worked with in Children’s Services over the past eight years and want to wish them all the best for the future,” she said.