Councillor who ‘stifled talks’ on Rotherham sex grooming
A Labour Councillor in Rotherham is under investigation by the party for his alleged use of bullying and intimidation to stifle discussion of the town’s sex-grooming scandal.
Mahroof Hussain, who announced his resignation from the authority yesterday, is the subject of complaints from a fellow Labour Councillor and another member of the local party, relating to separate incidents last year.
Mr Hussain, 46, was named this week in a report that labelled Rotherham a failing authority and criticised senior Pakistani members of the council for wielding “disproportionate influence”.
An inspection found the council to be in a state of collective denial about the scale and extent of its failure to protect children from groups of men, largely members of the Pakistani community, who targeted and used them for sex.
Fear of being branded racist was said to have had paralysing effect on the willingness of staff to acknowledge and tackle the crime pattern.
The inspection was led by Louise Casey, director-general of the government’s families programme. She said staff felt that Mr Hussain, along with Jahangir Akhtar, the council’s former deputy leader, had “suppressed discussion” of sensitive issues that might upset “community relations”.
A police officer was said to have described a meeting at which the two men resisted an initiative to target taxi drivers and the Pakistani community in relation to sex-grooming crimes.
“Neither believed the extent of the problem that we were trying to communicate,” the officer said.
Mr Hussain admitted that he had lobbied licensing staff on behalf of taxi drivers, but denied placing undue pressure on council employees.
Two complaints against Mr Hussain are the subject of a formal investigation by Labour’s regional office.
One alleges that the arrival of a large group of Pakistani men led to the abandonment of a meeting at which Labour members were to have questioned their three ward councillors, including Mr Hussain, about their knowledge of child sexual exploitation in the town.
On another occasion, a Labour councillor is understood to have complained of being the victim of a false allegation of racism made by Mr Hussain, made with the aim of preventing a discussion about sexual exploitation of children.
Mr Hussain was unavailable for comment last night. A Labour spokesman said the party had “taken swift and decisive action” but “does not comment on internal investigations”.
He confirmed that the scope of its investigation into four Labour members in Rotherham who were suspended last year, including Mr Akhtar but not Mr Hussain, has widened to take account of the Casey report’s findings.
In response to the Casey report the government ordered the replacement of the council’s cabinet, including Mr Hussain, by a team of commissioners. Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, described the authority as “wholly dysfunctional”.
Paul Lakin, the council leader, announced his immediate resignation. The remaining six members said they would step down as soon as transitional arrangements were in place, but Mr Hussain went further by announcing his resignation with immediate effect.
Justice Lowell Goddard, the New Zealand High Court judge announced this week as the new chairwoman of the national inquiry into historical child sex abuse in Britain, confirmed yesterday that the inquiry would investigate the Rotherham scandal.
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