Rotherham Council’s leader has resigned and entire cabinet pledged to quit after an investigation into local child sexual exploitation found the council ‘not fit for purpose’.
Government troubleshooter Louise Casey’s review concluded the borough was continuing to ‘take more care of its reputation than it has of its most needy’, uncovering a historic culture of denial and bullying alongside serious and on-going safeguarding failures.
Following publication of the findings, Rotherham BC leader, Cllr Paul Lakin, confirmed he would be stepping down with immediate effect. The rest of the local authority’s cabinet announced their intention to resign as soon as transitional arrangements are put in place.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles has now appointed a team of commissions to take over the town hall ahead of new elections next year, announcing his intervention with ‘a real heavy heart’.
Casey’s investigation into Rotherham was prompted by publication of Professor Alexis Jay’s report into child sexual abuse in the region, which estimated at least 1,400 girls were sexually abused between 1997 and 2013.
Her findings published this week said the town hall had ‘denied that there had been a problem, or if there had been, that it was as big as was said’.
She pointed out that while Rotherham BC had been repeatedly informed about what was going on by its youth service, the council ‘chose to close that service down’.
Rotherham was found to have smothered uncomfortable truths and silenced whistleblowers, while staff were paid off to stop the council from having to deal with difficult issues.
Pickles told the House of Commons that the crimes committed against local children were ‘so appalling’ and the council’s remedy ‘so utterly inadequate’, that the Government ‘cannot in good conscious turn a blind eye’.
‘These are exceptional circumstances that justify Whitehall’s intervention so we can make the council address its failings and prevent this ever happening again. I believe the public both in Rotherham and across the country would expect nothing less,’ he added
A Rotherham BC spokesperson said the council now needed time ‘to understand and respond to the detailed report, and also to understand the implications of the intervention package proposed by the secretary of state, the resignation of the leader and the intention of the cabinet to resign’.
‘We recognise the need for a fresh start that is so clearly identified in the report, but also appreciate that we need to continue to deliver services to the people of Rotherham, and ensure business continuity,’ the spokesperson added.
‘We should not forget that the publication of this report will re-open old wounds for the victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation. We will continue to put in place the help and support they need at this difficult time, including our dedicated helpline.’
Commenting on the report, a spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: ‘It’s vital that Rotherham is given the appropriate support to ensure previous failures to protect young people are not allowed to happen again.’