Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Rotherham child abuse scandal: Council could face government inspection

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Media captionTheresa May: "It was a complete dereliction of duty"

The government is considering carrying out an inspection of Rotherham Council in the wake of the child abuse scandal, Home Secretary Theresa May has said.

Mrs May said Communities Secretary Eric Pickles was "minded" to commission the investigation. The authority welcomed the announcement.

A report last week said more than 1,400 children were abused from 1997 to 2013.

South Yorkshire Police said it had commissioned an independent inquiry into its handling of the scandal.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mrs May said Mr Pickles shared her concerns of "inadequate scrutiny by councillors, institutionalised political correctness and covering-up of information and the failure to take action against gross misconduct" in Rotherham.

She said Mr Pickles was "minded to use his powers under the Local Government Act 1999 to commission an independent inspection".

'Fully co-operate'

Paul Lakin, deputy leader of Rotherham Council, said: "We welcome the announcement by the government of the decision to carry out an inspection of Rotherham Borough Council's corporate governance arrangements."

He said that the council had "already intended to ask for a similar inspection by an independent body" and would "fully co-operate with the government".

The Chief Constable of South Yorkshire, David Crompton, said the inquiry he announced would "examine the role of both the police and council... and address any wrongdoings or failings."

Mr Crompton is due to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee later to give evidence on child exploitation in Rotherham.

Responding to Mr Crompton's announcement, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it had made contact with him to "clarify matters and remind him of the IPCC's expectation that any evidence of failures or misconduct by South Yorkshire Police officers should be referred to us".

An IPCC spokesman added: "It would then be for the IPCC to assess the information to determine whether an investigation is required and, if so, how it should be investigated."

A number of victims have spoken out about the abuse they suffered, with some saying they were ignored by police.

One woman, now 29, said she was groomed and abused from the age of 11.

She said: "I was just taken to a house with two Asian males and shown what to do by another girl.

"While I was there I'm assuming I was reported missing because police arrived. Me and other girl pushed to side of the bed, naked, no clothes on, and a police officer came to the side of the bed. I recall locking eyes with that police officer and he said there is nobody here, and he left. and we got dropped off back at the kids' home the next day."

Image caption South Yorkshire's Chief Constable David Crompton said the investigation would examine the role of police and council officials

It has also been announced that Shaun Wright, the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire, will give evidence to a parliamentary committee.

Mr Wright, who was the councillor responsible for children's services in the town between 2005 and 2010 before taking up his current post, is resisting fierce pressure to step down from his £85,000-a-year post.

Calls for his resignation have been made by Mrs May, Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband.

House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: "I have spoken to Commissioner Wright this morning and informed him that the committee will want him to give evidence as part of our inquiry, and he has agreed to do so."

In Sheffield, the Liberal Democrat Party said Mr Wright would face a vote of no confidence at a council meeting on Wednesday.

The Commons Communities and Local Government Committee announced Martin Kimber, the chief executive of Rotherham Council, and Joyce Thacker, the council's strategic director of children and young people's services, would be called to give evidence on 10 September.

'Rigorous' selection

On Tuesday, Labour announced it had suspended four members in Rotherham and said Mr Wright, who resigned from the party last week, would require National Executive Committee (NEC) approval of any application to re-join.

The party suspended councillors Gwendoline Russell and Shaukat Ali, as well as the council's former leader Roger Stone and ex-deputy leader Jahangir Akhtar, pending an investigation.

Labour's ruling NEC has taken control of a new "rigorous" procedure for selection of candidates to the local council in the South Yorkshire town, said the party.

Former councillor Maurice Kirk was also told he would need to seek approval to re-join.

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