Yesterday saw Ed Balls (Secretary of State for Children) at his request. He was basically offering me the opportunity of a chat given my concerns over Baby P. It was helpful to be able to have this discussion and after the meeting I wrote to Ed Balls to formally raise several issues.
This includes an issue over who will get to speak to those investigating Haringey. I have had a number of people who have contacted my office wishing to bring their concerns about Haringey Children’s Services and the associated agencies involved to the attention of the inspectors. These are people who work for the services and therefore have direct and pertinent knowledge. The information such people could provide would be invaluable in allowing the “rigorous scrutiny” that the Secretary of State demanded in his letter to the inspectors. I ask Mr Balls to indicate how they can make their concerns known to the inspectors confidentially before the end of the review. I understand the inspectors will be leaving Haringey on Friday.
At my meeting with Beverley Hughes (Minister for Children) yesterday she suggested that if I wished the inspectors to look at the political leadership issues I should raise that directly with the inspectors. My particular issue is that role of the individuals named in Section 18 and 19 of the Children’s Act 2004, which places requirements on the political leadership of councils. However, having then spoken to the inspectors, they have refused to stray beyond the remit laid out in the Secretary of States letter describing the terms of reference for the investigation.
This was a bit of a surprise as it contradicted what Beverly Hughes had said to me the day before. She seemed very genuine when we talked – so I don’t think this was intended.
So – I have asked Ed Balls if he would let it be known to the inspectors that he would like them to review those named in statute as being responsible for the services.
Last night was the first public meeting with Labour councillors since the verdict from the Baby P trial. George Meehan (Labour Leader of Haringey Labour of Haringey Council) has been entirely absent since the conviction. But last night there was nowhere to hide – and so he finally, after prompting by Robert Gorrie (leader of the Liberal Democrat group) made an apology:
In his statement, Mr Meehan said he would wait for the outcome of the review before commenting in detail on the case. But he added: “There is no failure to apologise in full by this council, we do so unreservedly.” Lib Dem councillors asked him to to offer his personal apology, to which Mr Meehan replied: “I have no problem saying I personally apologise.”