Professor Alexis Jay's Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham 1997-2013 published on 26 August 2014 provided a damning indictment of the failure of one local authority, Rotherham, to protect children from organised sexual exploitation. But more alarmingly the Report points to widespread organised child sexual exploitation across England.
We welcome the reviews set up by the Governmentthe Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and the Independent inspection of the compliance of Rotherham Council.
Our report is a preliminary examination raising questions about local government accountability and governance. We see a need for arrangements to bring to account officers still in post or who have moved on from an authority when serious questions about their past performance emerge. These arrangements have to balance accountability and fairness. In the case of Rotherham we call for an investigation into the reasons that key documents covering 1999 to 2003 and of prime importance to establish what went wrong within the authority are missing.
We also highlight the failure of scrutiny and challenge within the system of governance at Rotherham. Louise Casey is conducting the compliance inspection which includes an examination of governance and she should report by 30 November. We plan to invite Ms Casey to give evidence after she has reported. Worryingly, concerns about the effectiveness of local government scrutiny also feature in the recent Best Value Report into governance and financial management at Tower Hamlets. In this report we have flagged up local government scrutiny as an issue for our successor committee in the next parliament.
We also plan to call Ofsted to face questioning that, at least in part, it failed the children of Rotherham.
Finally, we would expect our successor committee in the next parliament would want to review the findings and conclusions of the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse as they relate to local government. It should also consider the provision of resources to identify, tackle and put right some of the damage caused by organised, child sexual exploitation.