Louise Casey to head up Rotherham independent inspection

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has announced that Rotherham Council will face an independent inspection after a report revealed 1,400 children were sexually abused over more than a decade.

The inspection will be led by Louise Casey (pictured), the head of the Government’s troubled families programme, and will examine whether the council covered up information about the abuse.

The move follows a report by Professor Alexis Jay which outlined how hundreds of children had been subjected to trafficking, rape and other sexual exploitation between 1997 and 2013 and how their plight had been ignored by a range of agencies, including police, councillors and council officials.

Mr Pickles told MPs: “With clearly documented failures by the council on so many levels, the rare step of a statutory inspection is in the public interest.”

He said Ms Casey’s inspection would consider the council’s governance, its services for children and young people, and taxi and private hire licensing.

It will also examine whether the council “was and continues to be subject to institutionalised political correctness affecting its decision-making on sensitive issues”.

The probe will assess if the council “covers up information, and whether ‘whistle-blowers’ are silenced”, Mr Pickles said in a written ministerial statement to MPs.

It will also look at whether the council takes steps to ensure only “fit and proper persons” are permitted to hold a taxi licence.

Ms Casey, the former victims’ commissioner, will report by the end of November, Mr Pickles said.

The Communities and Local Government Secretary said that if the inspection showed the council was failing, he had the power to intervene directly.

Ms Casey will also explore the links between Rotherham Council and the police and justice systems.

He added: “I will also ask Louise Casey to report to me on whether she considers, as a result of undertaking the inspection or otherwise, there are any further matters which might appropriately be drawn to the attention of authorities and other local service providers generally to assist them to improve the delivery of their services, particularly those relating to children and young people.

“In order to assist Louise Casey and help my consideration of the wider issues I will be writing to all leaders of principal councils asking them to consider the implications of the Jay report for their own authority.”

Mr Pickles told MPs: “We cannot undo the permanent harm that these children have suffered. But we can and should take steps to ensure that this never happens again and make sure that all local authorities deliver on their essential duty to protect vulnerable children.”

Home Secretary Theresa May said: “I was appalled by the catalogue of inexcusable failings in Rotherham exposed by Professor Jay’s inquiry, and am determined to make sure we are doing all we can to safeguard children and prosecute the people behind these terrible crimes.

“The independent inspection of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council announced by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government today will deliver the right scrutiny of the local authority and examine the way it works with the police and other agencies in the area.

“Crucially, the inspection will help all agencies learn the lessons of Rotherham in order to prevent any repeat of the terrible dereliction of duty that occurred there.”

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