Venue: Town Hall, Moorgate Street, Rotherham. S60 2TH
Contact: Debbie Pons, Principal Democratic Services Officer Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Chairman welcomed everyone present to the meeting and reported that it was with a deep sense of regret that the Cabinet were to discuss how in the past the Council badly let down the young people and families it was supposed to protect.
The failings identified in the Alexis Jay report were unacceptable and inexcusable and the public were rightly outraged, as were the Council as to its findings, both in the scale of the horrific abuse and the significant failings of this Council and other agencies to help those we were here to protect.
The pain and devastation that these young people and their families have suffered was inexcusable and no apology would take this away and the Council were deeply sorry.
The report indicated that services today were better and were now fit for purpose and significantly improved, but this offered little comfort to those who were badly let down in the past.
Public confidence in services had been shaken and the Council was now determined to win it back by actions.
The Centre for Public Scrutiny had been asked to provide independent advice and support to the scrutiny work so the Council could make sure it worked as it should, to which they had agreed.
The Local Government Association had also been asked to provide independent advice and support to look at how the Council could make the big changes that were needed. This would include advice on Human Resources matters, to which they had agreed.
The Council had not stood still and was already changing and this time next year the Council would look very different.
As a Council and a community the survivors of child sexual exploitation of the past were owed nothing less than the pledge that everything would be done to better protect young people in the future.
For these reasons it was important that today’s discussion was as open as possible.
A variation to the Council’s Standing Orders and Executive Procedure Rules was moved in order to allow for the filming of the Cabinet meeting and that the extension of the time allowed for members of the public to be extended from twenty minutes to thirty minutes and to remove the restriction on asking questions about individual employment issues in order to be as open and transparent as possible.
Today’s meeting would consider two main items, which the Chief Executive was presenting:-
1. The Alexis Jay report in to cases of historical child sexual abuse in Rotherham.
2. The Chief Executive’s response to the report and his recommendations to the Cabinet, which included an action plan setting out immediate action for further improvement.
Resolved:- (1) That a variation to the Standing Orders to allow for filming in the Council Chamber be approved.
(2) That the time allowed for members of the public to ask questions be extended from twenty to thirty minutes and for the restriction on the content of the questions relating to individual employment issues be waived.
Questions from Members of the Public
(1) A member of the public referred to Page 110 of the Jay report, which explained in detail the seminar that was held in 2005, which thirty out of sixty three Elected Members attended, on the extent of child sexual exploitation, the people involved how could this Cabinet say that anyone there and on the Council at the time did not know that child sexual exploitation in Rotherham was happening?
The Cabinet Member for Finance, confirmed that he was aware that child sexual exploitation was happening, especially from the seminar that took place. The seminar also covered the issue of this being a national problem and a specific issue in Rotherham. This was not considered as large a scale problem was later identified.
At the end of the seminar presenting officers confirmed that steps were being taken to deal with the issues and that the Police were watching particular areas and requested specifically that the information be treated as confidential. Any information taken from this could disrupt enquires as this was an incredibly difficult area of work in obtaining convictions and that gathering evidence could be prejudiced.
The Jay Report reflected a lack of trust that people in all agencies were doing their jobs properly. At the time there were no reasons to suspect that this was the case. The reassurance was not sufficient and throughout the report areas of failings around Rotherham could be identified.
In a supplementary question the member of the public asked why the relevant Scrutiny Panel did not scrutinise what was happening to ensure that the procedures in place were being done properly. It was not enough to say that the matters were confidential as the children of this borough were at risk, being raped, being abused and to say that as a Councillor you were not allowed to say anything or would not say anything was unacceptable.
The Chairman advised that those Elected Members, who were not Cabinet Members, who wished to speak would get another opportunity to ask questions.
(2) A member of the public claimed this was just another example of the bullying that was taking place within the Council in not allowing people to speak (namely other Councillors) because people were unable to express their opinion. The public were very angry and did not know why all the Councillors had not resigned.
The Chairman said it was not an issue of bullying, but a case of sticking to the Council’s Constitution and the rules and procedures. Other Councillors would have the same opportunities to ask questions on the report in another forum. The questions today were from members of the public.
(3) A member of the public wished to illustrate how the Members were conducting themselves over a number of years. He referred to the attitude of Shaun Wright, which was of arrogance and contempt and not becoming of any representative of the public. Mr. Wright was a Councillor for fourteen years and development of this characteristic came from the Council ... view the full minutes text for item 40.
Declarations of Interest
There were no Declarations of Interest to report.
- Chief Executive to report
Consideration was given to the report presented by Martin Kimber, Chief Executive, following the publication of the Alexis Jay independent report into historic cases of child sexual exploitation.
The Council had already apologised that it had previously let young people and their families down. Some of the Council’s previous services were simply not good enough.
The report did not make comfortable reading. There were not many people who would feel anything other than absolute dismay at the awful abuse suffered by some of the young people in the past. The report is clear, young people were let down by the Council and other agencies who were there to protect them. More should have done more to protect them from the most damaging form of abuse imaginable. The report contained some historic case studies that anyone involved in protecting young people past or present could not help but find deeply distressing. One can only admire the bravery of the people who have helped by recounting the most horrific period of their lives, in order to ensure a better response from agencies in the future.
The survivors of child sexual exploitation’s long wait to have their voices heard, for their stories to be believed and for all of the events that they suffered had now succeeded. The Council owed the survivors nothing less than the pledge that everything would be done to better protect young people in the future and to take immediate steps laid down in the report to make this happen.
The recommendations within the report were accepted in their entirety and action would be taken to make the recommendations were implemented promptly.
The Council was determined to ensure that the people that committed the vile criminal acts were brought to justice and steps had already been taken to ensure this action was taken.
The report provided with an extremely distressing narrative of what went wrong in Rotherham and the reasons why. The details were set out in the Independent Inquiry and they were set out within the report submitted in response.
A series of historic failings in the Council and other agencies amounted to a series of missed opportunities to understand and tackle child sexual exploitation dating back to 2002 and, therefore, the missed opportunities prevented the Council from ensuring that there were far fewer victims that the report indicated.
Given the nature of the failings there was a desire for those at fault to be held to account and the employment approach being taken was explained further along with the recommendations and the response to other agencies.
The Council took seriously its responsibility as an employer, would initiative approach action where evidence was available to support this.
Independent legal advice had now been sought on two occasions to assist the Council in relation to employment matters and to assist in any appropriate courses of action. In common with other agencies the only information to form judgement was the report, case studies, case files and confidential reporting arrangements. In ... view the full minutes text for item 42.