Leader of scandal-hit Warwickshire County Council offers 'heartfelt apologies' to families

Cllr Isobel Seccombe spoke to ITV Central after councillors made comments about children with Special Educational Needs and disabilities, sparking protests. Credit: ITV News Central

The leader of Warwickshire County Council has issued an apology and told ITV News Central that she is determined to "build the bridges" broken, after comments made by three councillors towards children with Special Educational Needs and disabilities.

The comments at an earlier meeting questioned whether some children "were just really badly behaved", and "needed a form of strict correction".

Cllr Jeff Morgan, Cllr Brian Hammersley and Cllr Clare Golby, all Conservatives, have been criticised for the language they used in the meeting held at Warwickshire Council on 25 January.

Cllr Morgan, the former cabinet member for children and young people queried whether some SEND children 'were just really badly behaved' and 'needed a form of strict correction'.

Cllr Hammersley asked: "Was there something in the water?" and "Where were they all when I was at school?"

Cllr Clare Golby questioned: "What comes down to parenting and what comes down to SEND issues – how do we identify that and what pathways do we put people on that perhaps don’t have an SEND need but do have parenting skill shortages?"

It left families of children outraged, with protests and calls for decisive action from the council - the three councillors have since apologised.

Speaking to ITV News Central, the leader of the scandal-hit council, Conservative Councillor Isobel Seccombe, said she was "horrified" by the comments.

"The upset to families is the thing that I find very hurtful," she added.

When asked if she agreed with calls for the three councillors to resign, Cllr Seccombe said she is "very aware of several hundreds of complaints from families", noting that there is a complain process in place.

"I do not think it's fair not to hear their voices through [the process] and allow their representation to be given," she said, adding: "So I'm not happy about what's happened, this week is not me, it's not Warwickshire County Council, it certainly is not my officers."

Cllr Seccombe said she wanted to "take time" to "allow the [complaints] procedure to take place."

Referencing recent protests and calls for those councillors to resign, she acknowledged that a produce is "not going to appease quite a lot of people who would like to have instant action."

She continued: "I would just say my position generally as a politician is that you win hearts and minds through education and through improving peoples' knowledge of what families are going through and of the lives these children have to lead, and of the value they bring to our society, because they are members of our society, and they need to be valued as such."

Cllr Seccombe was asked by ITV News Central what her message of 'reassurance' to parents was.

She offered "heartfelt apologies", adding that she reaches out to them to say "this really isn't Warwickshire"

She acknowledged that the council's reputation is "on the floor," continuing: "I'm so upset for my [council] officers who have worked extremely hard with those families.

"I back our officers and I back our parents and carers, and I will do everything I can in the next weeks, months, or however long it takes to build those bridges."

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