The children’s secretary Ed Balls has been branded “a bit of a bully” by the chair of the children’s, schools and families select committee after appointing Maggie Atkinson as England’s new children’s commissioner.
The children’s, schools and families select committee decided not to back Akinson’s appointment after interrogating her last week. It is the first such appointment not to be endorsed by a parliamentary committee.
Chair Barry Sheerman said: “There was nothing wrong with Maggie Atkinson in terms of professional competence but after the hearing too many of us got the impression that she would not be strong and independent enough to bang on the secretary of state’s desk and tell him things he may not want to hear. She didn’t have that extra dimension of independence that we felt the children’s commissioner should have.”
Balls has once again proven that he “doesn’t like independent voices” and “doesn’t like to be questioned”, said Sheerman.
This morning Balls sent a letter to Sheerman stating that he intended to appoint Atkinson despite the committee’s failure to endorse her appointment.
The letter said: “Having considered your report, I have concluded that it does not put forward new relevant facts concerning Maggie Atkinson’s suitability for the post such as to cause me to alter my nomination of her to the post of children’s commissioner, thereby rejecting the recommendation of the independent panel established as part of the standard Nolan recruitment process. Nor do I consider that her performance at the hearing comes into the ‘exceptional’ category set out in the guidance.”
Sheerman said he felt it was a “sad” day for parliamentary democracy. Ball’s action was the latest in many that showed he was prepared to interfere with the independence of organisations such as Ofsted and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, he added.
Atkinson is currently the director of children’s services at Gateshead Council and a former president of the Association of Director’s of Children’s Services (ADCS).