A MESSAGE leaked to the County Gazette shows children’s service ‘trouble-shooter’ Peter Lewis telling his staff not to let the ‘incident’ regarding his pay distract them from their jobs.

Somerset County Council and Mr Lewis have come under fire since it was revealed in July that he cost taxpayers £318,500 in a single year.

Mr Lewis was appointed as the interim children’s service chief at County Hall to help implement i m m e d i at e i m p r o v e - ments in the wake of a negative OFSTED report.

In the message, he says he wanted to speak to his colleagues directly and accepted that his income was substantial.

But he said his pay was not what newspapers claimed.

He added: “I want to stress that I am fully committed to my job which I believe is one of the most important there is – being responsible for the safeguarding and protection of children.

“It’s also a very difficult job and you only have to look at recent news from Rotherham to see what can happen if things go wrong.

“I know many of you are aware of the recent reviews that show we are on the right road.

“Incidents like this have the power to distract us.

“We must not let them.

“Our children deserve our undivided attention.

“That is what I will continue to give and I am confident that you also will do that.

“We are still on an improvement journey with a way to go as yet.

“Please be assured that I will remain in post here until the job is done.

“The council are happy, and a suitable permanent replacement has been appointed.”

A spokesperson for Somerset County Council said there was a national shortage of Directors of Children’s Services.

They said that enquiries about pay should be made to the agencies involved or to HMRC.

They added: “Nothing is more important than the safety of vulnerable children and these are shortterm appointments to make necessary improvements to our services that protect those children.

“The cost is substantial but the cost of not getting this right is far higher.”