A key reason for retaining local authorities is the need for some ultimate body responsible for ensuring no child is neglected or abused. Yet nothing has undermined that argument so much as councils' repeated failures to protect the most vulnerable.
Once again England's chief inspector of schools protests this week at councils' inability to track the estimated 10,000 pupils who have disappeared from the system. As he says, the poor support provided to the 9,000 children a year excluded from schools reinforces the disadvantage many of them suffer.
There are honourable exceptions. Several Welsh authorities, such as Rhondda Cynon Taf, place vulnerable children at the top of their list of priorities and take pride in their low exclusion rates. But the wider picture is disgraceful. Local government is busily erecting arguments for greater bureaucratic powers to achieve the goals of the Every Child Matters Green Paper. But action - or inaction - speaks louder than any words.