Rotherham's council cabinet resigned en masse on 4 February after a report into child sex exploitation in the borough heavily criticised the running of the council.
Labour council leader Paul Lakin said he would quit as leader and also as councillor. Shortly afterward communities secretary, Eric Pickles, announced his department has sent commissioners to take over the council, pending elections in 2016.
The report, commissioned by Pickles' department, concluded that “The council’s culture is unhealthy: bullying, sexism, suppression and misplaced ‘political correctness’ have cemented its failures.”
It was already clear from the Jay report, published in August 2014, that Rotherham was systematically failing children. This case has demonstrated a basic lack of care for and understand of some of the most vulnerable in society.
Police and senior social workers systematically blamed victims of sexual exploitation, often wrongly categorising them as “out of control” or as cases of alcohol and/or drugs misuse. Police often, on finding young girls with much older men, arrested the girls for offences such as being “drunk and disorderly” and failed to investigate the men.
When the Jay report was published the Daily Mail ran the headline “Betrayed by PC [politically correct] cowards”. Attacks on the council as being “too politically correct” come from a desire to attack Muslims, not from any coherent analysis of the situation.
However Rotherham Labour council's method of tokenistic “multicultural events” and communicating almost exclusively with self-appointed “community leaders”, often religious ones, has led to corruption, abuse and alienation of victims of sexual exploitation both white and within the Pakistani community.
The Jay inquiry spoke to Pakistani women’s groups from the area who stated categorically that the practice of communicating solely with “community leaders” disenfranchised them and prevented them tacking abuse within their community.
70% of Rotherham councillors still deny the extent of child sexual exploitation, and council services are not fit to support and challenge sexual exploitation. Yet central government intervention in councils is not democratic and should be opposed.
Experts, such as non-statutory youth work project Risky Business, who are closer to the community and who have raised the issue of sexual exploitation, as well as the local labour movement, should be involved in a thorough and democratic, review of council services and the police.