A COUNTY councillor has defended plans to merge education services and children's social care against "serious" concerns doing so would lead to a loss of democracy.

Councillor Andy Roberts, cabinet member for children and families, said he did not want to “fragment” children’s social care and education services and instead wanted to maintain the council’s current integrated system.

He said: “If anything I would like to see, in some ways, a greater working partnership between social services and education. I certainly don’t want to divide it out.”

The defence came in response to a grilling by Cllr Fran Oborski who had "serious" concerns the new 'wholly-owned' company would be offered a blank cheque in future budgets.

Cllr Oborski called for a full and thorough scrutiny and consultation into the plans at a full meeting of Worcestershire County Council on Thursday (January 17).

She said if the merger went ahead the council would lose much of its role in directing and scrutinising policy meaning there would be a “huge democratic deficit” in education services in the county.

Cllr Roberts said the move to the wholly-owned company Worcestershire Children First was under the control of the Department for Education.

He said: “Really there is no debate about whether we move to the new company.

"We are under the direction of the secretary of state and that’s where we are going.”

Cllr Oborski said she agreed the move to Worcestershire Children First was under the direction of the Department for Education but education services was not. She said that was the element that needed proper scrutiny.

Cllr Roberts said the council's role would not be lost because a managerial board would be set up and would include councillors.

He said: "You'll still have the opportunity to scrutinise, you'll still be corporate parents and in legal terms you will still have the responsibility of safeguarding children in this county."

Cllr Roberts said the company's budget would be set by the council.

Cllr Steve McKay said the scrutiny committee had already looked at the plan in November last year and would again be meeting to discuss the merger plans.

He said he could not see the need in pushing or promoting further scrutiny into the plan.

The motion was eventually rejected because it was deemed sufficient scrutiny was already being carried out.