A Haringey councillor fired from her cabinet position on the grounds that she had failed to keep the council’s leader informed about a court case involving children under the borough’s protection has expressed pride in the work done during her time in her former role while not addressing the reasons given for her dismissal, saying “children’s services must be above politics”.
Is a statement, Zena Brabazon claimed that “huge improvements” have been achieved “particularly in the field of safeguarding, children’s social care and relationships with our schools” during her time as cabinet member with responsibility for children and young people, which she had held since May 2019.
She said council leader Joseph Ejiofor “has made comments in the press which do need to be challenged” but does not do so in her statement, maintaining that “our duties to children and families will always be more important than any political career” and that “families in difficulty are entitled to confidentiality and privacy”.
It was the second time Ejiofor has sacked Brabazon from his cabinet since becoming the council’s leader following the May 2018 borough elections. The first occasion was on the final day of 2018 amid accusations of leaks to the media – which Brabazon denied involvement in – with Ejiofor saying changes were needed in order to have a cabinet team that could work together.
Brabazon returned to the cabinet after the Haringey Council Labour Group elected her its deputy leader and Ejiofor, following precedent, made her his statutory deputy, along with giving her a new cabinet brief.
In an email sent yesterday evening, Ejiofor told Labour Group members he has appointed Seema Chandwani, the cabinet member for neighbourhoods, as the new council deputy leader. Like Ejiofor, Chandwani is a member of Momentum, the activist group formed to support the leadership of Labour by Jeremy Corbyn.
On Tuesday, Chandwani retweeted a proposal by a group called Momentum Renewal, which describes itself as “a grassroots initiative to reform Momentum and unite the Left”, saying it “must be the rallying point to counter attempts to roll back party democracy” and press for the right of party members to “directly elect council leaders”. Earlier, Chandwani appeared to query the commitment of Labour’s new leader, Keir Starmer, to the cause of Black Lives Matter.
Labour Group critics of Ejiofor claim a recent decision to postpone the council’s annual general meeting by a year until next May came about due to his wish to forestall a challenge to his leadership at the Labour Group AGM, which must precede the council’s and has therefore also been postponed. On London has invited Ejiofor to respond to that suggestion. The opposition Liberal Democrat Group too has suggested internal Labour issues lie behind the postponement.
The appointment of Chandwani as deputy leader is being interpreted by some in the Group as a sign of Ejiofor becoming more reliant on the Corbynite Left both in the Labour Group and the local party membership. One councillor told On London, “Some will think from this that the Momentum takeover is complete, but it won’t last. This is end of days stuff”.
Brabazon’s full statement is below.
I very much enjoyed my time as Cabinet Member for Children and Young People. I am proud of the service and the huge improvements that have been achieved, particularly in the field of safeguarding, children’s social care and relationships with our schools. Our responses to all the criticisms in the November 2018 Ofsted inspection report have been acknowledged to be good, and we were praised by Ofsted in their 2019 focus visit. There will never be a time when we do not live in the sad shadow of our past failings but the service has a promising future and is stable and well led, against the odds. We have attracted good staff and rooted out some difficult problems.
Cllr Ejiofor has made comments in the press which do need to be challenged. However Children’s Services must be above politics. The portfolio is complex and our duties to children and families will always be more important than any political career. I will always put the needs of children first. Families in difficulty are entitled to confidentiality and privacy. These requirements cannot be outweighed by political considerations. Demands for information cannot always be met.
I am immensely sorry to be leaving at a time when relationships were building. Governors, headteachers, school staff and parents are working together to meet the challenges of the pandemic. The local authority is improving its offer to schools and using resources to support schools as hubs in the community. Officers are collegiate and professional. Fellow councillors have been constructively engaged. I have made great friendships and will miss colleagues. I wish the service well.
The image of Zena Brabazon above is from her Twitter profile.
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