COMMONS

Jay Report exposes local government and Ofted failures in Rotherham

18 November 2014

The Jay Report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham reveals systemic failures in local council scrutiny, governance, and leadership that has lessons for local government in England.

The Report also highlights serious flaws in the Ofsted inspection regime, says the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee in their new report.

In the report, Child sexual exploitation in Rotherham: some issues for local government, the CLG Committee calls for an investigation into missing papers at Rotherham and announces its intention to call Ofsted in to face questions over its role in failing to protect children in Rotherham. Given the concern over local authority scrutiny and governance, the Committee will also invite Louise Casey to give evidence after she has reported on the compliance inspection of Rotherham Council.

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

As a Committee, we heard alarming evidence that the organised child sexual exploitation at Rotherham is prevalent across England. Rotherham is not an outlier. It’s important to note that it was the press which stimulated action in Rotherham, not the Council’s own system of challenge or scrutiny, nor external inspections. It’s vital local authorities across the country now ensure their scrutiny, governance, and leadership is fit and ready to identify and combat child sexual exploitation in their communities.

Serious questions also need to be asked of Ofsted. Repeated Ofsted inspections in Rotherham failed to lift the lid on the Council’s shameful inability to tackle child sexual exploitation. As a Committee, we will want to question Ofsted about their inspection regime and ask why their inspections were so ineffective in Rotherham.

The Committee finds that senior council officer advice at Rotherham was poor, councillors failed to ask the right questions and, while the council had in place a panoply of child protection policies and plans, these were never effectively checked. The Committee also warns that 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. The Committee therefore urges local authorities to ensure scrutiny arrangements are separate from executive functions and that there is effective challenge when there is evidence of serious potential problems.

Given the systemic failures at Rotherham, the Committee agrees that it was correct for senior officers and the former Leader of Rotherham Council to leave their posts. The Committee also believes mechanisms should be put in place to ensure responsible senior individuals are held to account, even if they have departed to work at a local authority to work elsewhere.

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

It is an important matter of public policy that senior council staff be held accountable for their actions. Arrangements should be put in place to bring to account not just council officers still in post but those who have moved on from an authority before serious questions about their performance emerge. The proposals from the LGA are a useful starting point but more work is needed to establish an effective mechanism to tackle this issue. The Committee will continue to monitor this matter and intends to review the outcome of Rotherham Council arrangements to examine the conduct of employees in post when the authority failed to tackle child sexual exploitation.

The Committee welcomes the reviews set up by Government—the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and the Independent inspection of the compliance of Rotherham Council. The Committee also expects its successor Committee in the next parliament to review the findings and conclusions of the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse as they relate to local government.

Further information

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