WITH yet more appalling condemnations of the officers and members of Rotherham MBC being revealed this week in respect of their abject failure to protect the children of the borough, it seems to me that a latter day Heracles is needed to clean out the Augean Stables that currently masquerade as the council’s Department of Children and Young People’s Services.
There are a number of officers and members who now must accept culpability for their negligence in not protecting the welfare and safeguarding of the children within the borough but primary amongst these are Joyce Thacker, Shaun Wright, Martin Kimber (and his predecessor Mike Cuff), Councillor Roger Stone and surprisingly, disappointingly and worryingly South Yorkshire Police.
However, foremost in abdicating her responsibility must be Joyce Thacker, as for over six years, initially in her role as deputy director to Sonia Sharp and latterly as director of the Department of Children and Young People, she appears to have consistently ignored what has occurred with respect to the developing issues of grooming and abuse of girls; if not ignored it seems she has done nothing about them to protect the victims or relieve their pain.
The report by the Select Committee is clear and rightly damning in its conclusions and uses phrases such as officers in Rotherham being “inexcusably slow to realise that the widespread organised sexual exploitation of children was happening on their doorstep” and that their 'woeful lack of curiosity' was indicative of systemic failings (within the Department).
The abdication of responsibility by the officers and members, which surely is at least bordering on negligence, demands a full and frank response from both members and the chief executive after a full investigation of who bears responsibility for the failures.
Joyce Thacker has shown she is totally unsuitable to hold her current position and she must be relieved of her responsibilities; although this should be by either resigning or, more appropriately having her employment terminated, at no cost whatsoever to the Rotherham council tax payers. It would be immoral to ‘pay her off’ under a compromise agreement that can be kept secret. She must be dismissed in an open and transparent manner and as quickly as possible and should not benefit monetarily from the dismissal.
Shaun Wright must also accept equal responsibility and culpability. Mr Wright, there can be no excuses for your inaction and your moral attitude, honesty and personal integrity in respect of these issues must bring into question your suitability to be a police commissioner. You should consider your position very seriously and, having done so, resign forthwith from your current post.
Roger Stone, as council leader, also must surely have known a great deal about the overall situation. Over recent months, when reports of the scale and seriousness of this exploitation have become more public, Cllr Stone has played down many of the facts of the situation. As leader Cllr Stone cannot and must not be allowed to hide behind other people and must publicly and unequivocally state the truth about what has gone wrong in respect of the Children and Young People’s Department.
There can be no defence for any of the actions of Messrs Thacker, Wright and Stone and they all need to be replaced.
Martin Kimber (as chief executive officer) is the line manager of Joyce Thacker and therefore responsible for her annual appraisal and ongoing performance. Surely Mr Kimber during your frequent discussions with Mrs Thacker you could discern that she was failing in her professional duties; yet you did nothing about it. Perhaps you might like to explain why, because this episode also brings into question your own judgement and suitability to undertake the role of chief executive of a large local authority.
Finally, the role of South Yorkshire Police must be further investigated and their apparent inactivity in the pursuit of justice explained. There is no point in speculating what reasons the police had for their inaction but if, as has been intimated, it was because of the fear of inflaming racial tensions, they should remind themselves of their own motto of ‘justice with courage’ and also remember that colour or creed have no place whatsoever in the decisions about the absolute pursuit of justice.
The public of Rotherham and not least our young people and the victims of these appalling crimes deserve the truth: members and officers of Rotherham MBC and South Yorkshire Police it is your duty and responsibility to furnish this as fully and openly as possible.
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