Rotherham chief to quit over child abuse scandal

THE chief executive of Rotherham Council yesterday announced he is to step down in the wake of a shocking report that detailed the sexual exploitation of at least 1,400 children in the town.

Council chief Martin Kimber has bowed to pressure to resign. Picture: PA
Council chief Martin Kimber has bowed to pressure to resign. Picture: PA

Martin Kimber, who joined the authority in 2009, said: “I believe that new leadership will enable the town to recover more quickly from the events of the last two weeks, and strongly signal a new beginning at this critical time in its recovery.”

Professor Alexis Jay’s report outlined how hundreds of children had been subjected to trafficking, rape and other sexual exploitation between 1997 and 2013 and how their plight had been ignored by a range of agencies, including police, councillors and council officials.

Mr Kimber said he will leave his post at the end of December. He has been at the forefront of Rotherham Council’s response to the Jay Report since it was published a fortnight ago.

He offered an unreserved apology from the authority at a press conference immediately following its release.

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Yesterday, he said: “The report does not make comfortable reading in its account of the horrific experiences of some young people in the past, and I would like to reiterate my sincere apology to those who were let down when they needed help.

“The events of the past fortnight will again have been an incredibly traumatic time for them and their families, and have shaken the town as a whole.

“I believe that new leadership will enable the town to recover more quickly from the events of the last two weeks, and strongly signal a new beginning at this critical time in its recovery. The time is therefore now right for me to leave.

“I will be sorry to leave Rotherham but firmly believe that this will leave the council in a stronger position in the future. It is therefore the right thing to do in the interests of the people of the town.”

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Council leader Roger Stone resigned in the immediate aftermath of the report.

Since then there have been top-level calls for the resignations of others in senior positions during the 16 years covered by the report, especially South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Shaun Wright.

Before he was elected as PCC, Mr Wright was a councillor in Rotherham for more than a decade and the cabinet member with responsibility for children’s services from 2005 to 2010.

Prime Minister David Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May and Labour leader Ed Miliband have all called for Mr Wright to resign, as has his deputy, Tracey Cheetham, who stepped down herself in protest at his failure to go.

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When Labour threatened to drop him last week, Mr Wright resigned from the party. He will face questions from MPs today about his knowledge of the scandal.

Mr Wright will appear before the Commons home affairs select committee, which will also hear evidence from South Yorkshire’s chief constable David Crompton, senior Rotherham Council official Joyce Thacker and NSPCC chief executive Sir Peter Wanless, who is leading a review into the Home Office’s handling of abuse allegations.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: “The committee will be questioning those in positions of authority at the time that these offences were being committed on how the sexual exploitation of children on a horrifying scale was allowed to go unchallenged for so long.

“We will also be hearing from Sir Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC about progress in their ongoing review of how the Home Office handled historical allegations of child abuse.”