Chief executives admit they must take responsibility for failures

Council chief executives should intervene personally when
services are at risk of not reaching acceptable standards,
according to the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and
Senior Mangers in response to Lord Laming’s report,
writes Amy Taylor.

Solace believes the role of council chief executives includes
responsibility to put systems and resources in place to ensure that
all services are maintained at an acceptable standard and they
should intervene if necessary.

This view supports Lord Laming’s criticisms of Gurbux Singh,
chief executive of Haringey council when Victoria Climbie’s case
was being handled by the authority, for feeling “able to distance
himself from these failures”.

Solace also believes chief executives are responsible for
ensuring that they have the “right people in the right places” to
provide high quality services, and it is acceptable that they
should be held accountable with others for performance in all of
these areas.

This further echoes Laming’s criticisms of Singh in his report:
“As chief executive, Mr Singh carried overall responsibility for
the way in which the council operated and performed. If there was a
gap between local policies and practice it was exactly his job to
know about it, to keep his members informed and to take timely and
corrective action.”

A key point made in the report is that councils did not take
action against managers while frontline workers were disciplined or
even dismissed. The two most senior social workers at the time of
Victoria’s death, director of social services Mary Richardson and
her assistant Carol Wilson, have stayed in their new jobs as
director of Hackney and Waltham Forest social services

Health secretary Alan Milburn backed up Laming’s criticism of
“the breathtaking unwillingness of some of the most senior people
in these agencies to accept that they were in any way accountable
for these failures”.

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