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04.02.15

Entire Rotherham cabinet resigns as council found ‘not fit for purpose’

The cabinet of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council will resign en masse after an independent investigation found the whole council is “not fit for purpose”.

Louise Casey was tasked with inspecting the council by communities secretary Eric Pickles following the Jay Report, which exposed at least 1,400 children in the Rotherham area had been sexually exploited over a 16 year period, and that the council had been aware of the problem as far back as 2005.

The new report has revealed a culture of bullying, sexism, suppression and “misplaced political correctness" at the council. Responding to the report the cabinet for Rotherham MBC released a statement in which they state their intention to resign from their positions.

They are similar findings to those revealed by Prof Jay when she testified to the local government committee.

Prof Jay said that “sexist bullying” designed to put down and undermine women was a feature of the council’s “extremely traditional, male-dominated administration”.

Casey writes in the forward to her report that upon arriving at Rotherham she discovered “a council in denial”. “They denied that there had been a problem, or if there had been, that it was as big as was said. If there was a problem they certainly were not told – it was someone else’s job. They were no worse than anyone else. They had won awards. The media were out to get them,” she wrote.

She added: “RMBC demonstrates a resolute denial of what has happened in the borough. This took several forms – notable in their recurrence – including dismissal of Professor Jay’s findings, denial of knowledge of the ‘scale and scope’ of CSE, blaming others, and denial that CSE remains a serious problem in present day Rotherham.”

Casey said the child sexual exploitation team at the council was poorly run, had an excessive case load and did not share information between agencies.

Her report said: “This inspection revealed past and present failures to accept, understand and combat the issue of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), resulting in a lack of support for victims and insufficient action against known perpetrators.”

In examining around 7,000 documents and interviewing over 200 people, including past and present council members, staff, partners, victims and parents, Casey’s investigation revealed:

  • a council in denial about serious and on-going safeguarding failures
  • an archaic culture of sexism, bullying and discomfort around race
  • failure to address past weaknesses, in particular in Children’s Social Care
  • weak and ineffective arrangements for taxi licensing which leave the public at risk
  • ineffective leadership and management, including political leadership
  • no shared vision, a partial management team and ineffective liaisons with partners
  • a culture of covering up uncomfortable truths, silencing whistle-blowers and paying off staff rather than dealing with difficult issues

Along with a pervading culture of sexism and bullying silencing debate, Casey also found that race was a contentious issue at the council. She said that council members are afraid to tackle difficult issues for fear of being seen as racist, or upsetting the community.

“By failing to take action against the Pakistani heritage male perpetrators of CSE in the borough, the council has inadvertently fuelled the far right and allowed racial tensions to grow. It has done a great disservice to the Pakistani heritage community and the good people of Rotherham as a result.”

Another problematic issue is the excessive deference the council demonstrates towards South Yorkshire Police, an organisation that they should treat as equals.

“This prevented the use of council powers to tackle perpetrators and a lack of scrutiny over the police’s actions – actions which inspectors would also call into question.”

Casey concludes that RMBC “does not have strong enough political and managerial leadership to guide the borough out of its present difficulties and put it back on a path to success”.

A statement from Rotherham MBC cabinet said: “[Louise Casey] clearly has no confidence in the current political leadership of Rotherham Borough Council.

“As a Cabinet, whatever the details, as the political leadership of the council we must take responsibility. We therefore announce our intention to resign our positions as soon as transitional arrangements can be put in place.”

Giving evidence last year, Prof Jay said: “The behaviour of senior people is absolutely critical in determining the ethos and the culture of an organisation. Staff will take their cue from that,” she said. “I don’t think this was an appropriate climate in which to be discussing an issue of such social sensitivity as child sexual exploitation.”

Casey’s report comes as a police officer and two local politicians – including one serving councillor – have been accused of having sex with abuse victims.

The PC also allegedly passed on information to the gangs who are believed to have taken part in the abuse of the 1,400 girls.

The two Rotherham councillors accused of having sex with abuse victims have been passed on the National Crime Agency, which is investigating the years of abuse in the town.

The police officer has been referred to Independent Police Complaints Commission by his force, South Yorkshire Police, according to The Times. Another colleague has also been reported to the IPCC for allegedly failing to pass on information about the officer's conduct. 

(Image source: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire)

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