The Manchester Employment Tribunal has judged that Salford City Council acted `reasonably and fairly' in the dismissal of Children's Services Director, Jill Baker.
Baker was sacked exactly two years ago in the fall-out from the Demi Leigh Mahon tragedy and constant criticism from OFSTED about the state of Salford Council's safeguarding practices. She was dismissed for `gross misconduct' after Councillor Bill Hinds, chairman of a cross party disciplinary panel said that "there had been a loss of trust and confidence…in Mrs Baker's ability to lead and manage the Children's Services directorate…"
Jill Baker subsequently took Salford Council to the Employment Tribunal claiming `unfair dismissal' but the Tribunal has turned that claim down.
A Salford Council press release issued this morning states that "Mrs Baker said that she had done nothing wrong and had been made a 'political scapegoat'. This was unanimously rejected by the Employment Tribunal."
The Salford Star first called for Jill Baker's resignation in early 2008. And has subsequently constantly called for the resignation of those who were also responsible directly for the failed safeguarding of children in Salford – Council Leader John Merry, Children's Services Lead member John Warmisham and Chief Executive, Barbara Spicer.
In 2006 Salford Council drew up a list of exact roles and responsibilities for safeguarding the city's children. At the top of that list was The Leader of the Council (John Merry) who was to "ensure that the Council gives priority to safeguarding children coherently and consistently in service planning and resource allocation".
Second down on that list was the Cabinet Lead for Children's Services (John Warmisham) who was to "Ensure that the Council's Children's Services responsibilities are properly considered, supported and monitored by the Cabinet…Work with the Director of Children's Services to ensure the Directorate is adequately funded and staffed to deliver these priorities…"
Third down on the list was the Chief Executive (Barbara Spicer) who was to "Make sure statutory inter-agency arrangements are in place…and ensure there is an open culture between local agencies and good direct communications between senior managers so that they accept and address concerns brought to their attention."
Jill Baker, as Director of Children's Services, was fourth down on the list and she was to "Ensure that the directorate has access to a range of effective, efficient and flexible services that protect and support vulnerable children and their families."
So the Salford Star asks again – Why haven't John Merry, John Warmisham and Barbara Spicer resigned?
John Merry, quoted in today's Salford Council press release, seems more concerned about the £175,000 the Council has spent defending its decision to sack Jill Baker…
"We are pleased that the tribunal has decided we made the right decision" he said "but it is disappointing that we have had to spend so much of the council's valuable time and money to reach this stage."
He added that the Council tried to reach an agreement with Jill Baker so that the case wouldn't have to go to a tribunal "for her benefit as much as ours".
The tribunal, held this year, heard of the "shameful…poor practice" of the Children's Service and maybe it was that, rather than the cost, that was the reason behind Salford Council trying to avoid the tribunal.
The cost to Salford's vulnerable children was way more than £175,000
For background to this story - click here and follow the links at the end