High level child sex abuse akin to that revealed in Rotherham earlier this year is likely to be happening in other councils across the country, according to the author of a report on the case.
Professor Alexis Jay told the communities and local government select committee on Monday afternoon that the situation in Rotherham was “not unique”.
Asked if she would find similar results if invited to conduct an inquiry in other councils, she replied: “Yes, indeed, I do believe that.”
Professor Jay, whose report found 1,400 girls as young as 11 were groomed and abused over a 16-year period in the town, told the committee that groups of the council’s staff had tried to communicate problems to senior officers, who disregarded the issue’s severity.
She said: “The problem lay most certainly with the senior managers who did not pay attention to what they were being told and insisted it was blown out of proportion.”
Professor Jay also said a high vacancy rate among social workers at the council had contributed to its failures, as had a bullying and macho culture.
Senior Rotherham MBC staff told Professor Jay the bullying “manifested itself in the way some of these people spoke to women”.
“It was an extremely traditional political male-dominated administration,” she said.
“I don’t think this was an appropriate climate in which to be discussing an issue of such social sensitivity as child sexual exploitation,” she continued.
Rotherham MBC leader Paul Lakin (Lab), who stepped up to the role in September after former leader Roger Stone (Lab) quit following the scandal, admitted a culture of bullying had existed. He said the council had addressed this issue through an induction scheme for councillors.
Cllr Lakin also backed Professor Jay’s finding that communication barriers existed between junior and senior members of staff. He said that before he became leader, staff members had been denied access to the leader’s office.
“Everything was key-fob protected,” he said.
“They would have to make an appointment to see the leader through the leader’s secretary. That fob has now been changed and any member of the council can now get to see me or the deputy leader at any time.”