Cllr Margaret Eaton, a Conservative councillor but who has a non partisan role as Chairman of the Local Government Association, used a speech and Today programme interview yesterday to caution against a "witch hunt" over Baby P. The implication is that she disagrees with demands that Haringey Council leader Cllr George Meehan, the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People Cllr Liz Santry and Sharon Shoesmith, the Director of Children’s Services should all go. What Cllr Eaton calls a "witch hunt" others might see as a demand for accountability.
But the role of the LGA seems to be that of a kind of trade union for councils. They will stick up for Councils right or wrong. Just as a trade union will represent their member facing the sack – no matter how justified the sack might be. Or a defence barrister will defend the accused no matter how hopeless their case seems.
I can see there is a case for such a role. No doubt much of the work lobbying central Government against unreasonable impositions and red tape on local councils would have cross party support. But the LGA does not come cheap. My Council’s annual sub is £48,125. I would guess that Haringey hands over a similar sum so, of course, the LGA is going to stick up for them. But would you want to be a member of a club which includes Haringey Council? Also, to return to the trade union analogy: Is it a closed shop? Does every Council have to join? What terrible fate would befall them if they said: "Thanks, awfully. But £48,125 is a bit steep for us so I think we will give it a miss."