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Former senior Rotherham staff 'could have been disciplined'

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Disciplinary action could have been taken against former Rotherham MBC senior managers for failing to respond effectively to concerns over child sexual exploitation if they were still employed by the council, according to one of the authors of a report published today.

Mark Greenburgh, of law firm Gowling WLG, told a meeting this afternon that senior managers at the council between 1997 and 2013 operated in a culture in which knowledge was not shared between “silos” and people were discouraged from raising concerns.

Responding to a member of the public who expressed anger that no one at the council had been held to account for past failings, Mr Greenburgh said: “I understand why your frustrations arise. If people were employed today [by the council] you could take disciplinary action against them - there would certainly be opportunities as they were failing in their duties.”

Mr Greenburgh’s review into the Performance, practice and conduct of senior employees, which was commissioned by the council, found no “culpable behaviour” which would justify “any form of legal action or regulatory involvement of any kind” against seven of the 16 former senior officers whose roles were considered by the review, including former chief executives Martin Kimber and Martin Cuff.

There were also no grounds for seeking to review the pensions of those officers who are now retired as this would require an order from the secretary of state following a criminal conviction.

The review recommended Liverpool City Council and Doncaster MBC, the current employers of former chief executive Ged Fitzgerald and former head of children and families Jacqueline Wilson respectively satisfied themselves that the individuals had learned lessons.

Presenting the report Mr Greenburgh said some council directors never spoke to each other and operated in isolation, leading to concerns raised about vulnerable children not being shared.

He added: “The thing that concerned me the most is that when there were opportunities and things were brought to [senior managers’] attention, rather than having an inquiring mind, things were closed down and efforts made to stop people making complaints rather than find out what they were complaining about.

“There is no doubt that that senior officers, directors and chief executive had loud alarm bells ringing in their ears, but did not take any action. No one took personal responsibility for the issue.”

The review was published by Rotherham MBC alongside a series of other independent investigations into the role of council staff during the child sex abuse scandal in the town.

A 2014 report by Alexis Jay found at least 1,400 children were sexually abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. 

Earlier council leader Chris Read (Lab) criticised a number of former Labour councillors who refused to co-operate with the review.

He said: “I hope those that refused to take part [in the review] including former Labour councillors, understand the consequences of their choices. Our survivors deserve better than their miserable silence.”

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