Cambridgeshire County Council announces it will no longer use law firm Baker Small for new cases after social media row

Baker Small have apologised for 'inappropriate' Tweets

Baker Small have apologised for 'inappropriate' Tweets - Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire county council will not be referring new cases to a legal firm caught up in a social media storm for putting out ‘inappropriate’ messages on Twitter.

Baker Small have apologised for 'inappropriate' Tweets

Baker Small have apologised for 'inappropriate' Tweets - Credit: Archant

Tuesday’s announcement follows calls from Councillor Lorna Dupc (Lib Dem, Sutton) for the council to pull the plug on law firm Baker Small.

Cllr Dupré wrote to the council’s executive director of children, family and adult services, asking that the county council have no further engagement with the Milton Keynes-based firm.

Cllr Dupré said information on the county council’s website shows that it has paid at least £144,000 to Baker Small between May 2015 and January 2016.

Baker Small specialises in public sector legal services, including representing local authorities facing challenges at tribunals from parents of children with special educational needs.

Lorna Dupre

Lorna Dupre - Credit: Archant

On Saturday evening (June 11), Baker Small published a series of messages branded as inappropriate from its official Twitter account @bakersmall which caused great offence and upset to parents of children with special needs.

Cllr Dupré said: “The messages published by Baker Small appeared to gloat at the defeat of parents fighting for the interests of their children, and laugh at those who have lost their cases.

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“Many of these cases are immensely upsetting, and for a company employed by the county council to publicly ridicule and humiliate the parents involved is unprofessional and totally unacceptable.”

Baker Small have subsequently taken the messages down and apologised for the Tweets, but Cllr Dupré said: “I believe that the actions of Baker Small mean that parents can no longer have confidence in any process in which the company is involved, or in the county council if it continues to engage Baker Small to represent its interests. I am therefore calling on the county council to cut all ties with this company with immediate effect.”

Adrian Loades, executive director for children, families and adults said: “We can confirm that we will no longer be using Baker Small for new cases. We recognise the damage that these tweets have done to parental confidence and by extension to the potential relationship between the county council and parents.

“There can be different views between parents and the local authority in respect of special educational needs support to children, and we always work hard to avoid this relationship becoming adversarial if at all possible.

“There will be current cases that Baker Small are holding on our behalf, and these will be reviewed on a case by case basis. In some instances it may be better for the all parties that Baker Small retain the case in order to avoid delay or disruption to decision making.”