PM promises money to help victims

Published: Thursday 5th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Prime Minister David Cameron has said cash will be provided to help the victims of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham but he said “let’s not pretend this was all a problem of money”.

Mr Cameron was speaking a day after the scathing Casey Report in to the grooming, rape and trafficking of hundreds of children in the South Yorkshire town led to the entire political leadership of Rotherham Council resigning before they were replaced.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced yesterday that the authority’s “wholly dysfunctional” ruling Labour cabinet would be replaced by commissioners in the wake of the new report.

He also announced the whole council would be put up for election in 2016.

The moves came in response to an inspection report by Louise Casey which painted a picture of a council in complete denial about the issue and a culture of bullying, “misplaced political correctness” and silencing whistle-blowers.

Mr Cameron was asked about the Rotherham scandal during a tour of Yorkshire today.

He told BBC Look North: ” I’m glad we’ve acted swiftly to remove a council that, frankly, was not doing its job properly.

“The Casey Report is incredibly hard-hitting and damning so we need a new team in there straightaway to run things, to sort it out, to make sure the lessons are learnt and, of course, to help the victims.”

Asked about what cash would be provided for the victims of the scandal, the Prime Minister said: “Let’ s not pretend this was all a problem of money. It was mismanagement, political correctness, bullying, sexism – all sorts of problems highlighted in the Casey Report.

“Of course if resources are needed they must be provided but this is not a failure of resources, it was a failure of leadership, of management and much else besides.”

Mr Cameron said: “If the money is needed, the money will be provided. But let’s not pretend that these appalling abuses that took place and this appalling grooming and child sexual exploitation was all about money, it wasn’t.”

And the Prime Minister was also asked whether the commissioners will have powers to “do what they like”.

He said: “That’s true to an extent.”

Earlier, the interim boss of Rotherham Council urged the Government to act quickly to appoint the emergency team to take control of the authority.

Jan Ormondroyd, who was appointed interim chief executive last year when the previous post holder stood down amid the scandal, appealed to Mr Pickles to end local uncertainty.

“What Rotherham needs now is a move towards stability, a clear way forward and the fresh start which Louise Casey and her team have called for,” she said in a statement on the council’s website.

“We understand the impact of the current uncertainties around the future leadership and management of the council on the people of Rotherham, and also on staff in the council.

“I have written to the Department for Communities and Local Government, urging them to confirm urgently who the five commissioners who will take over the running of the council will be and to ensure they are in place as soon as possible.”

She said the council had accepted the report’s finding of a “catalogue of cultural and system failings” and accepted that it “could and should have done more in the past”.

“We apologise for the devastating impact that this has had on the lives of the people of Rotherham.

“Given the scale of change which the council is now facing, it is inevitable that there will be questions that people will have that we can’t answer immediately.

“However, we are committed to sharing information and providing clarity as soon as we can.

“In the meantime, the people of Rotherham will not see any disruption to the way in which we deliver our day-to-day services for citizens.”

Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins said the Government was legally obliged to allow two weeks’ consultation on the proposal to send in the commissioners.

“Following that the Government will do everything it can to help get the council back on its feet as quickly as possible and start to provide the better services that local people deserve,” he said.

“We agree Rotherham now needs a period of stability, effective leadership and a fresh start following the devastating failures uncovered in the inspection report.”

The Casey Report had been ordered in the wake of the disclosure in last year’s Jay Report that at least 1,400 children had been subjected to rape, violence and trafficking by gangs of mainly Asian men

Mr Pickles made his announcement just moments after the authority’s entire cabinet announced its intention to resign in the wake of the Casey Report.

Council leader Paul Lakin, who only took up his post last year after the previous leader resigned in the wake of the scandal, stepped down with immediate effect.

Today, Labour councillor Chris Read acknowledged that there had been a “culture of denial” in the council but said that was changing.

“When the information came forward people found it really hard to believe that young women were being taken away by these grooming gangs and were being exploited and raped,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“I don’t think, hand on heart, anybody set out to cover up abuse – deliberately to do that – but clearly things went very badly wrong along the way.”

He refuted a suggestion in the Casey report that 70% of the councillors had rejected the findings of the earlier Jay report in to abuse in the town, saying the entire council accepted the “fundamental thrust” of its conclusions.

“I don’t believe for a minute that there are 70% of councillors in Rotherham who deny the fundamental thrust of the Jay report. We accept that report, we acknowledge those failings and we are determined to try to move the council forward,” he said.

Published: Thursday 5th February 2015 by The News Editor

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