Calls for sacking of council leader over Baby P case

THE leader of Haringey Council made a heartfelt apology on behalf of all the child protection agencies involved in the Baby P case, as calls for his resignation grew louder. Labour Cllr George Meehan read a statement at a cabinet meeting in Wood Green C

THE leader of Haringey Council made a "heartfelt apology" on behalf of all the child protection agencies involved in the Baby P case, as calls for his resignation grew louder.

Labour Cllr George Meehan read a statement at a cabinet meeting in Wood Green Civic Centre on Tuesday night, apologising for the council's failure to protect Baby P.

The 17-month-old boy was on Haringey child's protection "at risk register" for nine months and had been seen 60 times by health professionals and social workers. But he suffered an horrific death at the hands of his mother, her lover and their lodger in Haringey in August 2007. Mr Meehan, who was also leader of the council at the time of Victoria Climbie's death which led to the Laming inquiry, said: "Let me begin by making clear that we are very sorry for the events which led up to the death of Baby P - sorry for the suffering he endured, sorry for the failure of all the child protection agencies involved to protect him, to save his life. Haringey Council's apology is heartfelt and unreserved."

He added: "There has, however, been failure - by all the agencies involved to protect this little child from the pain and suffering which led to his death, and for that we are truly and genuinely sorry."

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His statement came a week after a jury at the Old Bailey found two men guilty of allowing or causing the death of Baby P. His mother had pleaded guilty to the same charge earlier in the trial. And it came five days after the government announced it would be sending independent inspectors in to review Haringey child's protection services.

Cllr Meehan said his apology was to all those who knew and cared for Baby P, to Haringey residents who feel let down by the actions of the child protection agencies and to the wider public who have listened with horror at the dreadful injuries inflicted on the toddler.

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Mr Meehan said the council was unable to comment further on the details of the case until a review by Ofsted inspectors had been completed at the end of next week.

He added: "Let me conclude by saying this: In the 15 months since Baby P died, Haringey's social workers have continued to do their best, often in very difficult circumstances, to protect vulnerable children in our community. Despite the pressure of the last few months and weeks, they continue to put the interests of those children first."

But his apology was too late for opposition members who have called for him and Cllr Liz Santry, cabinet member for children and young people, to resign.

Lib Dem leader and Hornsey Cllr Robert Gorrie said: "It was inappropriate that it has taken George Meehan a week to apologise. He did not make a personal apology and there was still no sign of personal accountability in this tragedy.

"Mr Meehan was leader during the Victoria Climbie case. The only way to rebuild confidence in children's services and in Haringey Council is for him to resign.

"Clearly we want to return to this topic at the full Council meeting on Monday."

Cllr Neil Williams, who was opposition leader of Haringey during the Climbie case, said: "This apology has been far too long in coming. What we've seen is an extreme reluctance by Haringey Council to take personal responsibility for what has happened.

"We have to empower people so that they have the confidence to take their concerns to the highest level and so that they are heard and not smothered by bureaucracy.

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