A row broke out at Bexley Council after a discussion of a motion criticising the authority’s performance on children’s services was held behind closed doors.

At the full council meeting on November 5, Thamesmead East Labour Councillor Mabel Ogundayo moved a motion rebuking "the cabinet and the continued lack of adequate improvement in children’s services," adding, "there remain further risks to the safety and security of the borough’s young people."

Press and public were excluded from the discussion after the ruling Conservative group cited the council’s standing order 43, which protects council officers from being singled out for criticism in a public forum, while Coun Ogundayo's motion was later branded "inept".

After a discussion lasting around 45 minutes, members of the public were allowed back in to the chamber at the Civic Offices in Bexleyheath.

Labour member for Erith, Coun Abena Oppong-Asare, told members: "This Conservative council is still missing the point.

"We are aware that you have done some good things but there are still improvements that need to be made.

"I really hope you are listening to me because we have spent most of the evening trying to get this through to you."

Council leader Coun Teresa O’Neill responded: "We are never going to be in a position where we are complacent about children’s services.

"They are not good enough at the moment.

"Even if we have a good service the bar will always be raised and I don’t have a problem with that because children deserve this."

Government watchdog Ofsted branded Bexley’s children’s services "inadequate" in a number of key areas in a report published in 2012.

An unannounced follow-up inspection in March formed the basis for a May report which upgraded the council’s service to "requires improvement", but added, "progress has been very slow and the quality of services is still to variable."

Cabinet member for children’s services, Coun Philip Read, told News Shopper caseloads for social workers were being reduced and the council was taking steps to recruit and retain more permanent staff.

He pointed to a line in Ofsted’s latest report which states "there are no widespread or serious failures that create or leave children being harmed or at risk of harm."

Coun Read added: "My colleagues and I regretted the inept wording of Cllr Ogundayo’s motion because the consequent need to exclude the press and public meant we were unable to tell in a public forum the good, positive and improving story we have to tell about children's services."

Children’s services covers everything a local authority provides in cases when children are referred to social services or are deemed to be in need of care.