Haringey Council should invoice Ed Balls for some of the £600,000 they have had to pay Sharon Shoesmith

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July 24, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith


There is a good case for Labour Shadow chancellor Ed Balls contributing out of his own pocket to Sharon Shoesmith’s £680,000 payout, instead of just the taxpayers. Shoesmith was the Head of Children’s services at Haringey council during the infamous ‘Baby P’ case. The payout became known yesterday as it was revealed within the accounts that had to be published.

Ed Balls is many things. Clever, well educated, pugnacious and ambitious amongst them. But he is a great example of what happens when someone with no experience of running an organisation or managing a company gets involved in employment law. He is also an example of why these career politicians with no experience of the real world can be dangerous.

There is a process for sacking someone. You may not know this if you have never managed a company. You have to make sure a thorough investigation takes place and the person involved has to have a chance to defend themselves. You may not know this is you have never managed a company. Should they be dismissed summarily they may be entitled to compensation. You may not……you get my drift.

Balls, who was Secretary of State for Education and Children’s services at the time (2008), sacked Shoesmith in a live press conference on TV. Haringey Council then suspended her without pay and acted upon his instructions. I suppose he thought it would turn attention away from the decision to amalgamate children’s services and education into one department/empire/fiefdom for Balls himself, leaving Shoesmith, who had been a successful teacher and school inspector, in charge of social services too, for which she had no training, no experience, and was reliant upon those reporting to her making sure she was aware of what was going on, particularly with serious cases.

But, as we know’ the two social workers in charge of the Baby P case seemed to be ignoring the signs that there was a problem, and it is they who were fired, and this has been backed up on appeal. Yes, there is a case that Shoesmith, as the overall Head of the department, should have considered her position in light of what went on underneath her. I reckon she probably did consider her position, but whilst doing that she was sacked. Wrongly, and unfairly. The compensation is not just about salary, it is about pension contributions and the considerable damage to her reputation for the rest of her life.

Ultimately, we should never forget that the real victim here was Peter Connelly. Given that context, it was quite an achievement that Ed Balls managed to make Sharon Shoesmith a victim too.

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