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Shoesmith payout 'is shocking'
A payout to former child protection boss Sharon Shoesmith over her unfair dismissal following the Baby P tragedy has been condemned by ministers.
The settlement, reported to be worth up to £600,000, was described as "pretty shocking" by Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb.
Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles accused Haringey Council, which reached the confidential agreement with its former director of children's services, of "bankrolling a state-sponsored cover-up".
Labour's Ed Balls, who as children's secretary removed Ms Shoesmith from her role after a damning report on the death of Peter Connelly, said the payout would "appal people across the country".
Ms Shoesmith was fired from her £133,000-a-year job by Haringey Council without compensation in December 2008, after a report from regulator Ofsted exposed that her department failed to protect 17-month-old Peter - then known publicly as Baby P.
Her lawyers argued that she was the victim of ''a flagrant breach of natural justice'' fuelled by a media witch-hunt.
In May 2011, the Appeal Court concluded she was unfairly sacked because Mr Balls and Haringey did not give her a proper chance to put her case before her removal.
The Department for Education and Haringey sought permission to attempt to overturn the ruling in the Supreme Court, but judges rejected the applications, clearing the way for her to receive compensation.
A Haringey Council spokeswoman confirmed that a settlement had been reached but the terms of the agreement were confidential.
Mr Pickles accused the Labour-led council of mishandling the situation and attacked the use of a confidentiality clause.
He said: "There should be no rewards for failure in the public sector or the private sector.
"We've been very clear that legal devices like non-disclosure or compromise agreements should not be used to gag staff or brush under the carpet golden goodbyes to senior staff.
" I fail to see how Haringey Council's secretive actions are in the public interest, given the astonishing sum of taxpayers' money involved and the immense public concern and upset at the Baby P scandal.
"Bankrolling a state-sponsored cover-up is a massive error of judgment by Haringey Council, and compounds their mishandling of the whole affair."
Mr Lamb told BBC Radio 4's World at One it was "pretty shocking, the scale of the reported payout, given what tragedy unfolded in that particular borough".
Mr Balls, now shadow chancellor, defended his handling of the situation, saying he would "do the same thing again".
He told BBC Radio 5 Live: " An independent report said there were disastrous failings in Haringey children's services.
"They said the management was at fault. Sharon Shoesmith was the director of children's services and so of course it leaves a bad taste in the mouth that the person who was leading that department and responsible ends up walking away with, it seems, a large amount of money."
He added: "The payout is something that will appal people across the country. What it can't do is bring back a little boy who lost his life because he was failed by Sharon Shoesmith and that department. That's the truth and that will never change."
Mr Balls said the Appeal Court had concluded he should have held a meeting with Ms Shoesmith before his decision, but the advice he had been given was that would have been "quite wrong".
He added: "I made the decision to remove the person who had failed, I did so in the best interests of children across the country. Faced with the same situation I would do the same thing again."
Baby Peter died in Tottenham, north London, on August 3 2007 at the hands of his mother, Tracey Connelly, her lover, Steven Barker, and their lodger, Jason Owen.
He had suffered more than 50 injuries despite being on the at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, police and health professionals over the final eight months of his life.
A series of reviews identified missed opportunities when officials could have saved his life if they had acted properly on the warning signs in front of them.