South Ribble BC suffered “a major corporate governance failure” over allegations concerning child sex exploitation by licenced taxi drivers and the way these were investigated, a scrutiny report has found.
It said the events concerned “resulted in significant damage to the council, its reputation and trust with residents”.
The council has since suffered political turmoil though it now has a new leader Peter Mullineaux (Con).
Monitoring officer Ian Parker was understood earlier this month to have been suspended by outgoing chief executive Mike Nuttall.
A scrutiny report was unable to find any formal cabinet meetings at which decisions were made on how to investigate allegations over taxi licensing and child exploitation.
The report’s findings stated that South Ribble’s failures “were exacerbated by weak political and senior management leadership” and that “actions taken by cabinet members and the monitoring officer were not constitutional in that no formal meetings of the cabinet were held, no record or note of any of the decisions taken were made”.
It added: “There appears to be a lack of regard to the council’s policies on safeguarding, which is of concern.”
Scrutiny members found it “inexplicable as to why the leader of the council, cabinet member for regeneration and leisure and the chief executive should be excluded from anything to do with the licensing service [and why they] should allow themselves to be excluded and not challenge the reasons”.
Among their recommendations were that five cabinet members deemed as having been “involved in taking the unconstitutional decisions” should be referred to the standards committee and that “the conduct, behaviour and competency of the monitoring officer be considered further”.
It also called for an urgent review of the council’s senior management structure.
The report is due to go to full council next week. Cllr Mullineaux said: “This has been a difficult time for the authority in recent months, and I truly regret any instances where residents feel we have not lived up to the high standards they rightly expect, but I think we can all agree that now is the time to push forward and really look to the future.”