By Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
Haringey Council leader Cllr Joseph Ejiofor stressed he needed to be kept “fully informed” about child safeguarding matters following the dismissal of a cabinet member.
In a statement on the recent sacking of Cllr Zena Brabazon, Cllr Ejiofor said: “The issue was that the leader of the council should be fully informed about all independent assessments about the safeguarding service we provide for our young people.”
The Ham and High reported on Monday (8th June) that a leaked email revealed Cllr Brabazon’s dismissal from the post of cabinet member for children, education and families was linked to a recent child protection case in which the council was heavily criticised by a High Court judge.
In a ruling handed down in May, the judge, Mr Justice Hayden, slammed the council over a “litany of failure” in a case in which a disabled child’s mother became involved in a relationship with a convicted child sex offender.
According to the email to councillors seen by the Ham and High, Cllr Ejiofor said Cllr Brabazon’s position was “untenable”, as she had taken three weeks to inform him about the ruling.
In a subsequent statement, the council leader said: “The cabinet member for children, education and families is one of the most important briefs in the council, and it’s vital that I have full confidence that the member responsible understands the expectation that they must be fully informed of key issues within their portfolio.
“It has become clear to me that Cllr Brabazon has different expectations around the importance of communicating key information between cabinet members and the leader of the council, and the requirement that the service will be able to withstand constructive challenge where appropriate.
“Haringey Council will never compromise on child safety or case confidentiality. The issue was that the leader of the council should be fully informed about all independent assessments about the safeguarding service we provide for our young people.”
The council leader claimed he and Cllr Brabazon had been unable to reach an agreement during a meeting on Friday, and she had told him “back me or sack me.”
In response, Cllr Brabazon, who will continue serving as a Labour ward councillor for Harringay, said: “Cllr Ejiofor told me he wanted to make a change, making it clear he no longer wanted me in his cabinet. That is his prerogative as council leader.
“I will always put the needs of children first, and will always ensure their confidentiality, and that their rights are preserved and respected, especially when there are court proceedings where the court’s processes, including confidentiality, have to be adhered to.
“Being cabinet member has been thirteen months of extremely hard work, supporting, challenging and advocating for a service which is improving.”
Cllr Kaushika Amin has been appointed as the new cabinet member for children, education and families.
It is the second time in 18 months Cllr Brabazon has been dismissed from the cabinet by Cllr Ejiofor, prompting the Liberal Democrats to warn over “continued Labour infighting”.
Opposition spokesperson for children and families, Cllr Tammy Palmer (Lib Dem, Crouch End) said: “This news means that in the past 18 months, the Labour leader of Haringey Council has sacked his cabinet member for children and families twice, and Cllr Brabazon has now been appointed to his cabinet twice and sacked twice.
“This kind of turmoil undermines the ability of the cabinet to provide clear and consistent leadership.
“That is a particular concern in a portfolio with responsibility for child protection. In light of Mr Justice Hayden’s recent damning criticisms of children’s social work practices in Haringey the worry is that continued Labour infighting could interfere with keeping children safe.”
Responding to the comments, Cllr Ejiofor said: “Haringey Council will never compromise on child safety or case confidentiality. Cllr Palmer is mistaking Lib Dem gossip for decisive leadership. It is essential that both the Leader and Cabinet member are sighted on key safeguarding issues. We are unwilling to risk any council service suffering when we could be taking decisive action.”
A spokesperson for Haringey Council said: “We can confirm that Cllr Kaushika Amin has been appointed as cabinet member for children, education and families, taking over from Cllr Zena Brabazon. A new cabinet member for corporate and civic services will be appointed by the leader of the council shortly. The make-up of cabinet is a political decision.”