Child sexual exploitation in Rotherham: some issues for local government - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents


Conclusions and recommendations


Independent inspection of the compliance of Rotherham Council

1.  It is our intention to call Louise Casey to give evidence after she has completed her inspection of Rotherham Council. (Paragraph 6)

Ofsted

2.  We have a number of questions about the performance and actions of Ofsted and it is our intention to call Ofsted to provide answers. (Paragraph 7)

Matter for consideration by successor committee

3.  We expect that our successor committee in the next parliament would want to look carefully at the recommendations and conclusions emerging from the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. The committee may wish to examine those recommendations and conclusions which apply to local government and, later in the parliament, it may wish to examine how, and to what effect, they have been implemented. (Paragraph 9)

Commissioning the Jay Report

4.  We have set out at length two accounts of the circumstances surrounding the commissioning of the Jay Report to show that in both accounts the stimulus for action was the press. Significantly, it was not any internal council processes or external reviews or inspections. (Paragraph 13)

Investigations by other local authorities

5.  We would be seriously concerned if other local authorities where there are credible allegations or suspicions of organised child sexual exploitation were to hold off from carrying out their own investigations because of the consequences of the publication of the Jay Report in Rotherham or indeed to wait for the outcome of the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, which still has not got a Chair in place. (Paragraph 14)

The extent of child sexual exploitation in England

6.  On the evidence we took the alarming conclusion is that Rotherham was not an outlier and that there is a widespread problem of organised child sexual exploitation in England. It follows that other authorities not only need to review their own arrangements in the light of the Jay Report but also the Government needs to ensure that the guidance and benchmarks are in place to ensure these reviews are effective and children are identified and protected. (Paragraph 17)

Scrutiny

7.  In our view the circumstances found within Rotherham Council—policies divorced from reality, single party supremacy and a dominating personality with predominate influence—are likely to be found in other local authorities. In the face of these conditions it is essential that scrutiny arrangements are effective and separate from the executive functions and that the executive needs to be challenged when there is evidence of an acute problem which it has failed to take into account or address. (Paragraph 21)

Senior officers and councillors

8.  The quality of the reports from senior officers and the apparent lack of challenge by councillors raises a serious question about the adequacy of skills and training of executive councillors. (Paragraph 23)

Whistleblowers

9.  The effectiveness of Rotherham Council's policy on whistleblowers needs to be tested. (Paragraph 24)

The conduct of former council officers

10.  Given the extent and consequences of the systemic failures identified in the Jay Report we must conclude that the departures of the senior officers and the former Leader of Rotherham Council was the correct course. (Paragraph 25)

11.  We found the Local Government Association's contributions useful and in our view they provide the foundations for an equitable process for examining the conduct of local government officers who have moved on from an authority when concerns about their performance in a previous post emerge. (Paragraph 30)

12.  We welcome the action of Rotherham Council to put in place arrangements to examine the conduct of present and past employees. It is our intention to review the outcome of this process, if it emerges before this parliament is dissolved, or, if not, to suggest that our successor committee in the next parliament consider the matter. In addition, we consider that this process in Rotherham would be enhanced and made more equitable to all concerned if there was a thorough and independent review to establish why the papers produced between 1999 and 2003, which Professor Jay sought, are missing. It might start by asking whether the missing minutes were ever kept and what should have been the process for preserving them. (Paragraph 32)

Ofsted

13.  While concern has rightly been directed at Rotherham Council (and also at the police), we consider that the Jay Report provides serious questions about the performance of Ofsted and its inspection of the Rotherham Council's services. We therefore consider it important to question Ofsted about its record in reviewing children's services at Rotherham and, as indicated, we shall be calling Ofsted to give evidence. (Paragraph 34)

Resources

14.  At this stage and before the inspections have reported and the Improvement Board has completed its work a budget for the costs needed to tackle, identify or put right the damage caused by organised child sexual exploitation in Rotherham is not possible. There will be costs, and the Secretary of State has recognised that resources are going to be needed. These costs will include care, support, counselling and therapy for the victims and survivors of organised child sexual exploitation, and some of these costs will not fall on local government. Similarly for England more detailed estimates may not be available ahead of the outcome of the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. If Rotherham is an indicator, we would expect that substantial resources may be needed, and resources to implement their recommendations will need to be found. (Paragraph 36)

Conclusions

15.  It will, of course, be a matter for our successor committee in the next parliament to determine its own programme but we see a case for an inquiry into the operation of scrutiny within local government in England (Paragraph 37)


 
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Prepared 18 November 2014