Rotherham Council’s entire leadership has resigned following the publication yesterday of a damning report into the town’s child sexual exploitation scandal.
An independent report, ordered by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, concluded the local authority was “not fit for purpose” after finding it had a culture of “bullying, sexism, suppression and misplaced ‘political correctness”’.
Following the publication of the report, Rotherham Council’s ruling Labour cabinet issued a statement announcing that the entire leadership was stepping down.
An earlier inquiry found that 1,400 children were abused in Rotherham by gangs of men, mainly of Pakistani origin, from 1997 to 2013.
The statement said: “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.”
Moments after the resignations were announced, Mr Pickles announced that the “wholly dysfunctional” council leadership was to be replaced by government commissioners.
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He also said he would order early elections in 2016 for Rotherham Council.
In a statement to MPs he said: “My proposals are designed to give the council the new start it needs and to put an immediate end to the council’s ongoing service and governance failure.
“I am seeking to make an order under the Local Government Act 2000 to move Rotherham Council to all-out elections in 2016 and every fourth year thereafter. The 2016 elections will be an opportunity for the people of Rotherham to renew the membership of their council and elect those they have confidence in.”
He added: “In the immediate term, I am minded to appoint commissioners who will provide new leadership, taking over the roles of the currently wholly dysfunctional cabinet. I am proposing they will therefore initially exercise all the functions currently exercised by the cabinet – that is all the council’s executive functions.”
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said the latest report, by Louise Casey, the director-general for troubled families at the Communities Department, identified “a number of potentially criminal matters”.
It said the ongoing investigation into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham was to be extended in the light of Ms Casey’s findings.
Files passed to the NCA relate to one former and one existing councillor, Ms Casey’s spokesman said.
Investigators found the council had a “deep-rooted” culture of cover-ups and silencing whistleblowers, Ms Casey said.
The NCA said: “Communities and Local Government Minister Eric Pickles informed parliament of the outcome of an inspection conducted by a team led by Louise Casey.
“A number of matters have been referred to Operation Stovewood as they potentially fall within its terms of reference.
“It would not be appropriate to comment in detail about the matters referred until investigators have an opportunity to analyse the information, which they will do as part of phase one of the investigation.
“The NCA can confirm that the matters referred are allegations of potential criminal behaviour. Operation Stovewood is not investigating any misconduct matters.”
Ms Casey said: “This inspection revealed past and present failures to accept, understand and combat the issue of child sexual exploitation, resulting in a lack of support for victims and insufficient action against known perpetrators.”