Baby death sparks fresh calls for Sunderland council chief to resign

Pat Smith, Councillor and portfolio holder of children's and learning city services with Sunderland City Council
Pat Smith, Councillor and portfolio holder of children's and learning city services with Sunderland City Council
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Renewed calls have been made for a senior councillor to stand down from her cabinet role which oversees children’s services in Sunderland.

The demands aimed at Coun Pat Smith, portfolio holder for children and learning, comes after two serious case reviews were published yesterday into separate cases, which saw one baby die after being left in a bath while her mother answered a call at her door, and another baby subjected to physical assaults from her father.

Councillor Peter Wood, leader of Conservatives on Sunderland City Council.

Councillor Peter Wood, leader of Conservatives on Sunderland City Council.

Read more: Review reveals baby drowned while troubled mother answered door, and Sunderland social worker was sacked over abused baby
The reviews into Sunderland’s care services found delays were caused in responses from social workers, and opportunities were missed by officers and health care professionals to seek essential information.
Baby Penny, who was born in August 2013, died in May 2014 after her life support machine was turned off. Her death classed as an accident.
The tot, born to a mum with mental health issues and a troubled father, suffered a brain injury when she slipped in the bath as her mother answered the door.
Baby Nicola was 11 weeks old when it was discovered she had suffered broken ribs.
Her father, who had a history of drinking and violence towards another child, was later convicted of neglect and ill-treatment.
The reports, issued by Sunderland Safeguarding Children Board (SSCB), back up concerns raised by Ofsted when it graded Sunderland City Council’s children’s services and safeguarding department as inadequate.
The political and management leadership was highlighted among the issues in the council.
New bosses have since been drafted in, but Coun Smith remains in the post.
Conservative leader Councillor Peter Wood has said he is satisfied the council is making changes and added: “One area which is not being improved after Ofsted is the senior councillor, and we were told about concerns regarding the political leadership. Pat Smith should stand down.
“There are other Labour group members who would be able to take on board that role.”
Councillor Smith was contacted by the Echo, but not available for comment.
Labour’s Paul Watson, leader of the council, said: “Councillor Pat Smith plays a key role in the improvement board which is driving forward safeguarding in Sunderland.
“She also helped oversee the council’s own review of children’s services after concerns first came to light, and was at the forefront of the work that saw us get a good Ofsted report in 2012.
“She is very well placed to lead the recovery.”

There are other Labour group members who would be able to take on board that role.

Tory leader Peter Wood