Haringey chief denies responsibility for Victoria Climbie`s death

The chief executive of Haringey Council at the time Victoria
Climbie was killed has told the Laming inquiry that he did not
consider himself responsible for her death, writes
Janet Snell

Gurbux Singh, who now chairs the Commission for Racial Equality,
said he believed systems had been in place for frontline staff to
raise any concerns, and he had not been aware there were serious
problems over workload and staffing levels prior to Victoria’s

“If I thought I was responsible for what happened to Victoria I
would say so. I have thought about that and I don’t think I am,” he

Singh added he had been surprised to read the evidence of junior
staff, and he had asked himself the question: “Is there anything I
as chief executive could have done to influence what’s happening
seven levels down the organisation?”

He believed the answer was that he could “to an extent”, but
those below him were charged with ensuring the system was

Neil Garnham, QC for the inquiry, noted that Singh was not the
first person from the council to deny responsibility for what
happened. “Nobody in Haringey has said: ‘Sorry, I messed up’,”
though he added that some health service staff had done so.

Singh responded; “It was clear Haringey has messed up and there
were fundamental failures. But I am not clear where responsibility
lies…I am not sure what else we could have done.”

He said that he had not been aware of two letters sent to
managers, including social services director Mary Richardson,
highlighting staff concerns over a restructuring exercise resulting
in job cuts. He added that though he regularly met with staff below
him no-one alerted him to the fact that the service was in

Inquiry chairman Lord Laming put it to him that a number of
senior officers from Haringey have now left to take up better jobs
while junior staff involved in the case remain on suspension.

Singh replied that he did not quit Haringey as a result of the
Climbie case. He had submitted his resignation two weeks before he
received a phonecall from the local police commander informing him
of Victoria’s death.

“I think many local authority chief executives and social
services directors dread the day when that sort of thing hits them.
I felt completely shattered.”






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