If only former Council leader Roger Stone had known what he knows now. He wouldn’t have appointed the dogged, forensic, committed child care expert Alexis Jay to carry out the CSE inquiry. She was too knowledgeable and too committed to protecting children
Instead he’d have commissioned the six reports presented recently at the Town Hall under the banner of independent, a term applied in a style that doesn’t stand up to the closest scrutiny.
This is not a criticism of the authors, who probably carried out their duties diligently.
Yet they provided the conclusions the Councillors always wanted; that everyone is guilty means that nobody is guilty. Everyone, good and the bad are simply trees in an impenetrable forest that masks our understanding.
A witness stated that she had been bullied by Councillors, but they were not named. Two more unnamed trees in that dark forest.
The lack of independence comes in who determined the questions to be asked and how. In an inquiry that could not subpoena witnesses, could not demand the truth and was itself vulnerable to litigation should it get something wrong.
It a brief that excluded Councillors from investigation, as against merely being witnesses; like tearing a page down the middle and expecting the sentences to make sense. It represents a misunderstanding of the relationship between senior officers and Councillors who in Rotherham often work very closely together.
That relationship is at the heart of the publics fears about corruption, and something they want answers to. A councillor wants votes, committee posts and to be seen as making things happen. Officers want promotion or at least a peaceful life in a Council renowned for misogyny and bullying.
Exclusion of Councillors from the inquiries was not accidental, and it is very much the Achilles heel in Chris Read’s claim that this is a changed Council. He may try to hide behind his not commissioning the reports, but as Leader we should expect him to lead. These reports were not good enough, he should have known it, and he should have done something
Victims who sat listening to presentations of the reports noted the presence of Councillors who had been there in 2005. Knowing Jay’s statement that after a series of seminars and reports by Risky Business among councillors and senior officers, by 2005 “…nobody could say we didn’t know.”
They didn’t do anything then, how could they be trusted now?
Chris Read’s partner Emma Hoddinott, another attendee, felt compelled to resign as Deputy Leader after the Council was described as not fit for purpose. Yet Read has elevated her back into cabinet creating the only Councillor compelled to resign who came back to a Cabinet role.
Rotherham councillors see successful completion as a time when the media move on and forget them. When they still have their allowances and fees paid. When their failings have been forgotten.
For victims and most in Rotherham successful completion means having a full explanation of what went wrong, who was responsible and some sense that those who failed them have paid an appropriate price; councillors or officers.
Overview, or the spin.
Investigation into the Performance, Practice and Conduct of Senior Employees of the Council over the period of the Jay Report (1997-2013) and further highlighted in the Corporate Governance Inspection report made by Louise Casey (February 2015) (Gowling Solicitors)
Independent Investigation – Review of Cases A to O referred to in the Jay Report (Independent Consultant)
Audit Investigation into the Alleged Removal of Files and Impairment of Computer Records – April 2002
Audit Investigation into Missing Minutes from Meetings of the Key Players’ Group – Late 1990s to 2003/04
Audit Investigation – Theft of 21 Laptops from Norfolk House, Rotherham: 26th October 2011 – Review of the Council’s Response
Report into Rotherham Taxi Licensing and Enforcement Service – 2010 to the Present (Weightmans LLP)
Webcast of meeting: https://rotherham.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/304994
Now available to watch any time using the link above.
Readers may wish to refer to the Jay and Casey Reports, which are referred to in the above reports and much mention was made of them during the course of Wednesday’s meeting.
Click on the images below to read them yourself: