Thomas Bridge 11 September 2014

Pickles launches Rotherham Council inquiry

An independent investigation into Rotherham Council’s child services and governance will be led by the head of the troubled families unit Louise Casey.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles launched the inspection after the Jay report found around 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, over a third of which were already known to council services.

Casey will publish the findings of her report in November and has been tasked with considering the wider implications of her findings for all of England’s local authorities.

In a written ministerial statement, Pickles said he had directed Casey to examine Rotherham’s exercising of its functions on governance, children and young people and taxi and private hire licensing.

Among a range of key areas for consideration, the inspection will examine whether the town hall covers up information and silences ‘whistleblowers’, if the council is still subject to an atmosphere of ‘institutionalised political correctness’, and if steps are now being taken to address weaknesses.

Pickles will also be writing to council leaders, urging them to consider the implications the recent Jay report for their own authorities. The communities secretary has the power to intervene and take control of Rotherham if he sees fit.

‘Professor Jay’s recent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham has painted a horrific and awful picture that the council utterly failed its children,’ the communities secretary said.

‘We cannot undo the permanent harm that these children have suffered. But we can and should take steps to ensure that this never happens again and make sure that all local authorities deliver on their essential duty to protect vulnerable children.’

Responding to the announcement, president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (Solace), Mark Rogers, said: ‘Solace welcomes the announcement that Louise Casey will lead the independent inspection into Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.

‘Recent events tell us that there are systemic problems in how society deals with child sexual exploitation. Louise’s background will ensure that the review explores the root causes of the problems at Rotherham and their wider implications.

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