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No further action over chief's role in Rotherham scandal

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Liverpool City Council will not take any further action concerning chief executive Ged Fitzgerald following the publication of a report which found he missed opportunities to tackle child sexual exploitation during his time at Rotherham MBC.

The results of a review into the conduct of senior officers in Rotherham between 1997 and 2003, during which time at least 1,400 children were sexually abused in the town, was published on Wednesday. It concluded that little action was taken in response to evidence of CSE in the town considered at a meeting attended by Mr Fitzgerald, senior officers and police.

Mr Fitzgerald, who was Rotherham chief executive between 2001 and 2003, declined to be interviewed for the review but provided written answers to questions.

Mr Fitzgerald has currently stepped aside from his role in Liverpool after being bailed as part of an investigation into perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation relating to a probe into two council joint ventures with BT. The report states that in relation to evidence of CSE in Rotherham he “recalls that events were ‘downplayed’ and he did not raise the issue with members”.

The report recommends that Liverpool considers the report’s findings and ”satisfy themselves” that Mr Fitzgerald has learned lessons from the experience.

In a statement a spokesperson said: “Clearly, any organisation is limited in what action in can take into the previous work history of any employee.” Following further questoins from LGC they pointed to action taken following the publication of the first report into CSE in Rotherham by Alexis Jay in 2014 as being “sufficient”.

Then Liverpool City Council convened a meeting chaired by then Liverpool University vice chancellor Sir Howard Newby as part of a review of Mr Fitzgerald’s conduct.

During the meeting Mr Fitzgerald was questioned by councillors, including members of the then opposition Green Party group. No minutes of the meeting were published but in a statement Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said he was satisfied Mr Fitzgerald had answered questions “honestly and fully”.

Last year a joint targeted area inspection into the multi-agency response to abuse and neglect in Liverpool found ineffective management oversight had meant that statutory child protection enquiries were not consistently undertaken by children’s services or jointly investigated by the police.

It added that joint investigations into children who are being sexually exploited or at risk were not “routinely undertaken” and a lack of urgency in some cases led to children waiting weeks before receiving effective interventions to reduce harm.

However, two subsequent monitoring visits this year have identified improvements in processes.

The Rotherham review also found that Jacqueline Wilson, who was the council’s head of children and families between 2000 and 2004, missed opportunities to act on CSE as she then believed it was happening on a “small scale”.

It found no evidence to support allegations she was involved in covering-up issues related to CSE in Rotherham.

In a statement her current employer, Doncaster Children’s Trust, said it was “considering” the report’s findings.

A spokesperson added: “Doncaster Children’s Services Trust takes any concerns around child sexual exploitation very seriously. For that reason, we apply rigorous and robust due diligence to all professional appointments.”

Before joining the children’s trust, which was set up in 2014, Ms Wilson was previously employed by Doncaster MBC. An independent investigation commissioned by the council and the trust, and discussed at a full council meeting, found no evidence to support previous allegations.

The spokesperson added: ”We are clear that during the employees time with us we have had no issues with her performance or conduct.”

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