Julian Wooster has been appointed as the interim head of Devon County Council’s failing children’s services, two months after he retired from the same job in Somerset.

He joined Somerset County Council in January 2015, having previously led children’s and adults’ services at Portsmouth City Council.

On Mr Wooster’s watch, the Ofsted rating for Somerset’s children’s services rose from ‘inadequate’ in 2015 to ‘good’  in its most recent inspection this July.

Devon’s previous director Melissa Caslake recently left her role after just over 18 months, weeks after the county was hit with a government improvement notice for its special education needs and disabilities (SEND) provision.

The notice does not apply to Plymouth and Torbay councils which both run their own children’s services.

A separate Ofsted report published this summer also revealed that, despite some signs of improvement to the county council’s ‘inadequate’ children’s services department, progress has been too slow.

Mr Wooster’s tenure in Somerset led to several significant changes to support for children  – including for young carers, and Somerset merging its adoption service with those in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay.

Councillors approved the interim appointment at a full meeting of the county council on Thursday [8 December], but senior Liberal Democrat member Alan Connett said he couldn’t vote in favour as he hadn’t received any information on Mr Wooster.

“[His credentials are] not on the agenda paper. No member of the public reading our meeting [agenda] today could reasonably know who Mr Wooster is. In my view that’s a deficit which is why I voted against.

Adding that “he may be a perfectly admirable candidate,” Cllr Connett continued: “A short note in the papers setting out the man’s career credentials would have been most helpful and would have ensured that at least members of the public would have known who it is that Devon has just appointed to be the interim director.”

Cllr Connett was told that more information about Mr Wooster had been posted on the council’s Inside Devon website.

At the meeting, councillors also rubber-stamped the appointment of Donna Manson as the authority’s new permanent chief executive.

The current boss of Scotland’s Highland Council will replace Dr Phil Norrey, the council’s longest-serving chief executive who retired earlier this year after 16 years in the job. She starts in February.

Former county solicitor Jan Spicer has acted as interim CEO since September.