December 12 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
A six-figure payout for former child protection boss Sharon Shoesmith, dismissed from Haringey Council following the Baby P tragedy, “leaves a bad taste in the mouth”, Ed Balls said today.
"The payout is something that will appal people across the country. What it can’t do is bring back a little boy who lost his life because he was failed by Sharon Shoesmith and that department. That’s the truth and that will never change."
Now shadow chancellor, Mr Balls removed Ms Shoesmith from her £133,000-a-year post as Haringey Council’s director of children’s services after a damning report on the death of Peter Connelly.
But the Supreme Court backed an Appeal Court ruling that she is due compensation, with an undisclosed amount agreed yesterday, because due disciplinary process was not followed when she was sacked.
According to BBC2’s Newsnight, Ms Shoesmith’s settlement could be as much as £600,000. Haringey Council will foot most of the bill, the programme reported, with just some coming from central government.
Downing Street said this afternoon that it would reveal the amount it pays Ms Shoesmith, but Haringey Council has refused to discuss details of the payout.
Mr Balls told BBC Radio 5 Live: “An independent report said there were disastrous failings in Haringey children’s services.
“They said the management was at fault. Sharon Shoesmith was the director of children’s services and so of course it leaves a bad taste in the mouth that the person who was leading that department and responsible ends up walking away with, it seems, a large amount of money.
“The payout is something that will appal people across the country.”
He later added: “There was a legal process and the courts have taken one view which I, and the Department for Education, have consistently taken a different view of.
“At every stage my responsibility was to keep children safe in Haringey and across the country. In law I had the right to remove a director of children’s services from his or her post if they had failed.”
Mr Balls said the Appeal Court had concluded he should have held a meeting with Ms Shoesmith before his decision, but the advice he had been given was that would have been “quite wrong”.
He said that, faced with the same situation, he would do it again.
After being removed by Mr Balls, Ms Shoesmith was fired by the council without compensation in December 2008, following a report from regulator Ofsted that revealed her department failed to protect 17-month-old Peter - then known publicly as Baby P.
"Bankrolling a state-sponsored cover-up is a massive error of judgment by Haringey Council, and compounds their mishandling of the whole affair."
He died on August 3, 2007, having suffered more than 50 injuries at the hands of his mother Tracey Connelly, her lover Steven Barker and their lodger Jason Owen in Tottenham.
Clear signs of abuse had been missed despite 60 visits by social servicess, the police and health workers.
The settlement was condemned by Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, who said Haringey Council was “bankrolling a state-sponsored cover-up”.
He said: “There should be no rewards for failure in the public sector or the private sector.
“We’ve been very clear that legal devices like non-disclosure or compromise agreements should not be used to gag staff or brush under the carpet golden goodbyes to senior staff.
“I fail to see how Haringey Council’s secretive actions are in the public interest, given the astonishing sum of taxpayers’ money involved and the immense public concern and upset at the Baby P scandal.
“Bankrolling a state-sponsored cover-up is a massive error of judgment by Haringey Council, and compounds their mishandling of the whole affair.”
Tory former children’s minister Tim Loughton told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the courts were “effectively rewarding failure”.
Regulator Ofsted exposed how Ms Shoesmith’s department had failed to protect 17-month-old Peter Connelly, but in May 2011, the Appeal Court concluded she was unfairly sacked because Mr Balls and Haringey did not give her a proper chance to put her case before her removal.
The Department for Education and Haringey sought permission to attempt to overturn the ruling in the Supreme Court, but judges rejected the applications, clearing the way for her to receive compensation.