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SACKINGS CALL AFTER KHYRA VERDICTS

26-02-2010

Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood has called on Birmingham Council leader Mike Whitby to sack those at the top of the local authority, whose failures led to the death of seven year old Khyra Ishaq.

Last year Mahmood, whose constituency covers Khyra’s home in Handsworth, demanded the resignation of the city’s Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families Les Lawrence and his senior officer Tony Howell.

Howell apologised for Khyra’s death after the court hearing yesterday, but later ducked out of a Channel 4 News interview and neither he nor Lawrence has indicated they’ll quit.

In the wake of yesterday’s manslaughter convictions for both Khyra’s mother Angela Gordon and stepfather Junaid Abuhamza – who effectively starved the girl to death – the MP says the time has come for Whitby to wield the axe.

He told The Stirrer last night: “I call on Whitby to stamp his leadership on this issue, and to show not just Birmingham but the whole country that he appreciates that mistakes were made.

“We’ve had 18 deaths in five years in Birmingham of children known to Social Services – it’s starting to look like an epidemic.

“Mike gives authority to his Cabinet members to do the job as they see fit – but if they can’t do the decent thing then he has to get these people out of the way.”

Mahmmod believes the case for sackings has now become unstoppable, especially after a family court ruling from last year was finally released into the public domain, which condemned the department overseen by Lawrence and Howell in the strongest terms.

Mrs Justice King said at a care hearing for the dead girl’s siblings that the seven year old would “in all probability” have survived, if there had been “an adequate initial assessment and proper adherence by the educational welfare services to its guidance”.

The MP is also critical of the reported £800 a day plus expenses paid to PR consultant Terry Brownbill to advise them how to handle the issue – especially as the cash-strapped Social Services department was struggling to recruit suitably qualified staff when Khyra died.

“This is not about PR” Mahmood observed. “It’s about saving lives”.

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