Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Some lessons from Sefton's Baby a

The Liverpool Daily Post has a story this morning following up on the death of 'baby a' in Sefton. For those not up to date with this story start here. Lib Dems have been calling for protocols to set out the duty to report and review such incidents. We are very unhappy with the situation which surrounded 'baby a' which seemed to us to be far too secretive and prevented us holding the council to account and ensuring that the appropriate lessons were learnt and the necessary changes enacted. You simply cannot perform your duty if you are kept in the dark.

This week new protocols have been suggested. They will be dealt with by an all party Overview and Scrutiny Committee chaired by my colleague Richard Hands. I am happy to leave the details to them but I will make couple of observations.

All reporting has to be done formally in writing to a proper meeting. No 'behind the hand' informal briefing in the corridors.

If there is a report arising from an incident the law says that a synopsis should be published. In Sefton's case although the letter of the law was obeyed I think that the spirit was not. The synopsis was tuck on an obscure website that few knew about and most couldn't find even after they were told out about it. All councillor need to be notified when the report is published not left to discover it.

Finally there is an issue about the full report. Clearly we need a procedure about who sees the full report and if it is published. In the case of Haringey the synopsis appears to have allowed the council to maintain that all was ok. When key folk-Lynne Featherstone, Michael Gove and Ed Balls read the full report they formed a very different view. Featherstone and Gove have since campaigned to have the full text released. In principle we should be prepared to publish a full report. Birmingham City Council (Tory/LibDem) have undertaken to do so in another case.