Baby P and Haringey Council - the key players

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Indy Politics

Following a scathing report into failings exposed by the Baby P tragedy, two senior figures on Haringey Council quit today and another was removed from her post. But who were the key players?

Sharon Shoesmith

Haringey's head of children's services was fired today following her involvement in the Baby P case.

The council officer, believed to be earning £100,000, was removed by the council on the direction of Children's Secretary Ed Balls.

Public fury grew when it emerged at the end of an Old Bailey trial last month that nobody at Haringey had resigned or been sacked over the case, and Ms Shoesmith failed to apologise.

The 55-year-old had chaired the council's Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) which conducted an internal inquiry into the case.

She said: "There was not the evidence there for anyone to lose their jobs.

"The very sad fact is that we can't stop people who are determined to kill children."

She insisted that lessons had been learned since the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie in 2000 after care workers and police failed to save her.

Ms Shoesmith stressed that "the child was killed by members of his own family" and not by social services.

While she came under increasing pressure to resign, more than 60 Haringey headteachers joined forces to write a letter offering Ms Shoesmith support because they considered her to be "an outstanding public servant".

The letter, written by the headteachers of 61 state-funded primary schools and seven secondary schools, said: "Should the Child P case result in her loss from the borough, then our children and young people will lose one of their most effective, determined and committed champions."

It added: "The exceptional rate of improvement of many of the borough's schools would not have been possible without the support of the service that Ms Shoesmith rebuilt, revitalised and led."

But there have been widespread calls for Ms Shoesmith, along with other key players in the case, to be fired.

Mr Balls said he would be "astonished" if Ms Shoesmith received any pay-off or compensation for losing her job, but stressed that this was a decision for Haringey councillors to make.

Her replacement will be Hampshire County Council's director of children's services, John Coughlan.



George Meehan

The council leader who resigned today became a councillor because he believed in "quality public service".

A Labour representative for the Woodside ward, he moved to Haringey from Co Donegal, Ireland in 1963.

The 65-year-old, who lives with his wife and family in Wood Green, served as a Haringey councillor from 1971 to 1985 and again from 1990.

Before this most recent stint as council leader, which he began in May 2006, he had twice served as leader and twice as deputy leader.

He was also elected as executive member for children and young people in May 2004 and then again in May 2005 and he has served as a governor in a number of Haringey schools.

On the council's website, he said it was "a great honour" to be able to serve his local community.

"I became a councillor because I believe in quality public service, I feel it is important that local people are involved in making decisions that affect their everyday lives," he added.

"Haringey has changed dramatically during the 30 or so years I have been on the council. We now have a culturally rich and diverse borough, one I am immensely proud of."

He survived an attempt to remove him from his post last week, when the Liberal Democrat opposition on the Labour-run council tabled a motion of no confidence in him and Councillor Liz Santry following the Baby P case.

But the Labour group, which has a majority on the council, passed an amendment removing the no confidence element and inserting a commitment to act on recommendations of the review commissioned by the Government on children's services in the borough.



Liz Santry

The Haringey cabinet member for children and young people who also resigned today has been in office since May 2002.

The 63-year-old also chairs the Children & Young People's Strategic Partnership Theme Board in Haringey and is deputy of the London Councils, Crime and Public Protection Forum.

A Labour councillor, she represents the White Hart Lane ward.

On November 13, Ms Santry issued a statement about the Baby P case on behalf of the council, in which she said she was "deeply saddened" about the death.

She said: "This is a really tragic occurrence and the circumstances of his death are really dreadful.

"He died over 15 months ago, and for those past 15 months in Haringey there has been a huge amount of anguish, and endless discussion about what more we might have done to save this little boy.

"I have to say that we are truly sorry that we did not do more to protect him.

"Our duty is to protect our children. We did not do so in this instance and I would like to say how truly sorry we are."

And she said she "absolutely welcomed" the arrival of inspectors sent by the Government.

Following the statement, a local MP said Haringey's apology was "very late in coming" and demanded the resignation of the council's leader and lead councillor for children's services.

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