Dearne councillors were in the firing line again this week after another damning report ruled Rotherham Council is ‘not fit for purpose’ over its failure to tackle widespread child sexual exploitation (CSE).
A scathing report by Louise Casey, the government’s lead official on troubled families, concluded officials failed to protect the borough’s most vulnerable citizens.
Her damning dossier was commissioned by communities secretary Eric Pickles to look at how the authority was now dealing with the problem – after a previous report last year by professor Alexis Jay OBE found at least 1,400 children had been abused by mainly Asian men between 1997 and 2013.
In response, the council cabinet – including Swinton councillor John Doyle – announced their intention to resign en masse. The council leader, Paul Lakin, said he would also quit both as leader and a councillor.
The seven person cabinet had itself replaced a previous nine member cabinet only a few months ago, of which fellow Swinton councillor Ken Wyatt was a member.
Ex-Rawmarsh councillor Shaun Wright also resigned last year as police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire, along with former council leader Roger Stone, who lives in Kilnhurst.
Coun Doyle quit as cabinet member for adult social care. He will remain as a councillor but is not seeking re-election in the May elections.
In an exclusive interview with the South Yorkshire Times, he told how the portfolio he was responsible for was not criticised in the report but accepted ‘corporate responsibility’ for the council’s failures.
He added: “As a cabinet member I accept corporate responsibility for the failure in children’s services to address child sexual exploitation and its aftermath.
“We failed a vulnerable section of the community and did not respond quickly enough to their plight for which I am truly sorry.”
The council will now come under central government control and a team of five commissioners are poised to take over senior management of administrative functions.
The 157 page Casey Report refers to several case studies of abused children who were let down by council officers and those in power.
Referring to victims as a letter to avoid identification, it said: “G’s parents need help to protect their daughter from CSE. They inform agencies of the circumstances, which include allegations of multiple rapes and threats of violence. They are told by social care that there is nothing they could do and that she had consented to sexual activity. G is 14.”
The report refers to three sisters, X, Y and Z, aged 14, 15 and 17. It said: “Threats were made to kill X by one of the perpetrators. The police interviewed X but did not act.
It adds X was assessed in September 2009 as being ‘at a very high risk’ and Y as ‘having been successfully groomed’.
The report says a senior volunteer wrote to council and police officials.
“The letter questions why police are not doing more. They are not intervening, not pro-actively watching the residential home where X is accommodated and not arresting perpetrators.”
Despite police remanding one man in custody and another strategy meeting being held, the conclusion was: “The girls do not give evidence. No action was taken against the perpetrators.”
The report said: “Street grooming was happening in the community of which the council is the custodian including parks, takeaways, taxis, at the Interchange, in hotels, houses, alleyways and in the town centre.
“These are all areas where the local authority has a presence and has powers…These powers were not mobilised.”
The report adds people do not trust taxis in the town, and that senior leaders still do not accept taxis are involved in abuse, despite clear evidence.
It said: “Inspectors witnessed a discussion at a CSE tactical meeting in November 2014…the senior manager did not accept that there was a current problem with CSE and taxis and takeaways.”
Wath-based MP John Healey said: “We will all work with the commissioners to put right in full the flaws set out in this report.”
A spokesperson for South Yorkshire Police said the force has increased the number of staff working to tackle CSE but accepted there is still “much work to be done.”
Jan Ormondroyd, the council’s interim chief executive, apologised over the council’s failures and urged the government to name the five ruling commissioners to take over the council as soon as possible.
She added: “In the meantime, the people of Rotherham will not see any disruption to the way in which we deliver our day-to-day services for citizens.”