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15.09.14

Liverpool chief executive faces questions over Rotherham failings

Ged Fitzgerald, chief executive of Liverpool City Council, is to be quizzed by political leaders in the city about his actions when he was in charge at Rotherham from 2001-03, when children were being sexually exploited but the council failed to act.  

The meeting was announced by Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson after he consulted with council leaders on Friday.

An independent inquiry revealed that at least 1,400 children in the Rotherham area had been sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013. Professor Alexis Jay, a former chief inspector of social work, who ran the inquiry, concluded that the council knew as far back as 2005 of sexual exploitation being committed on a wide scale by mostly Asian men, yet failed to act.

Anderson said on Friday: “I have today met with all political group leaders on [Liverpool] city council to discuss how to approach the arrangements for a future meeting with Ged Fitzgerald in relation to his tenure as chief executive of Rotherham MBC from 2001-03.

“Arising from today’s meeting, arrangements will now be made, with Mr Fitzgerald’s full agreement and cooperation, for myself and the group leaders to meet directly with Mr Fitzgerald to discuss his role at Rotherham.”

The meeting is to be overseen by a “well-respected” and independent chair, who has yet to be named. The meeting should take place within three to four weeks.

Social workers in Liverpool have sent anonymous letter to Anderson, calling for Fitzgerald’s resignation.

The letter, signed ‘Social workers across the city’ and shared with the Liverpool Echo, states: “To do our job properly, we need to have confidence that our views and concerns will be listened to by those in power without fear of censure or cover-up. To be effective, we need to have faith that our concerns will be treated seriously and acted upon. Whilst Mr Fitzgerald remains in charge of Liverpool, we simply cannot have the confidence that this will happen.

“And nor can our service users. The poor, the weak, the vulnerable, the abused and the powerless – these people rely on us for their support and it is vital that they have trust in us and the organisations which we represent.

“How can we ask young people to trust us whilst the shadow of Rotherham hangs over one of the most powerful men in the city?”

The scandal has already forced the resignation of the current chief executive of Rotherham, Martin Kimber. In a statement last week it was confirmed he would stand down in December. Roger Stone, Rotherham’s council leader at the time the report was released, also stepped down.

There have also been calls for South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright, who was responsible for children’s services at Rotherham council from 2005 to 2010, to stand down, however he has refused to quit immediately, saying it is “not the right thing.” Instead he plans to stand down in two years time.

Last week it was announced that Louise Casey has been appointed to run an independent inspection of Rotherham council by communities secretary Eric Pickles.

(Image: Photo of Ged Fitzgerald by Richter Frank-Jurgen. Shared under Creative Commons.)

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