6 Feb 2015

Child sexual abuse in Rotherham: who was at the helm?

The resignation of Rotherham council’s entire cabinet this week poses deep questions about those in charge at the time. So who were they?

Picture: painted silhouettes carved and displayed at Rotherham bus station in a photograph taken last November. (Getty)

Paul Lakin

Former council leader
Lakin, who served as a Labour councillor since 1999 and resigned this week, only took the top job following the Roger Stone’s resignation in light of Professor Alexis Jay’s shocking report last year.

In wake of that report he offered an “unreserved apology to all the victims and their families for the suffering they have endured over the years.”

Roger Stone

Former council leader
Stone stepped down with immediate effect in wake of last August’s report. He was regarded by many of his colleagues as a no-nonsense politician. But others claimed he was a “sexist bully” who refused to listen to other people.

The report quoted one councillor saying: “[Roger Stone is] a bully… A lot of women have felt a sense of suppression and macho culture.” Stone has not commented publicly commented on the allegations.

Martin Kimber

Former chief executive
Kimber joined the authority in 2009. During his five-year tenure as chief executive, he refused to sack a single senior officer at Rotherham. Last September he was handed a £26,000 pay-off to leave two months early. In his departing statement, he said wanted to reiterate his “sincere apology to those who were let down”.

Mike Cuff

Former chief executive
The retired former chief executive of Rotherham council told the Jay inquiry that he recognised a problem of child sexual exploitation but that “he had no reason to believe that the problem was greater than anywhere else”. Cuff, who led from 2004 until 2008, later apologised to victims, saying that he took his share of responsibility in the “council’s failure to prevent the appalling abuse”.

Ged Fitzgerald

Former chief executive
Now chief executive of Liverpool city council, was the chief executive at Rotherham council between 2001 and 2003. In the Jay Report he is quoted as being “genuinely shocked and surprised” at what had emerged, telling the inquiry that he had “no recollection of [child sexual exploitation] being a major issue”. The Merseyside Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy recently called on him and others to “examine their conscience“.

Joyce Thacker

Former director of children’s services
Thacker resigned following last summer’s report. She joined the council as deputy head of children’s services in 2006 and stirred controversy in 2012 over a decision to remove three ethnic minority children from their foster parents because of their affiliation to Ukip.

Dr Sonia Sharp

Former director of children’s services
Serving as strategic director of children’s services between 2005 and 2008, Sharp was interviewed by Professor Jay, and later apologised to victims of sexual abuse in Rotherham saying: “You can’t be a director of children’s services and not take responsibility for what happens to children.” She now holds a senior post at the Victoria Department of Education in Melbourne.

Diane Billups

Former executive of education
As executive director of education from 2001 to 2005, Mrs Billups spent the last 15 months of her career setting up a children and young people’s service to bring together education, social care and health for the first time. Retiring in 2005 she said: “Nothing is more important than the well-being of every individual child, particularly the most vulnerable.”

Jahangir Akhtar

Former deputy leader
The former deputy leader of Rotherham Council resigned last summer after denying any knowledge about a relationship between a 14-year-old girl and one of his relatives. He later resumed his post after being cleared by the police of any blame, but lost his seat in the May elections to Ukip. The Casey report descfibed his as an inteimdating and “powerful figure” in Rotherham politics that was thought to have “influence that extended to the police”.

Shaun Wright

South Yorkshire’s former police and crime commissioner
The Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire, who was the councillor with responsibility for children’s services in the borough from 2005 to 2010. Initially, after the publication of Jay’s report, he resisted pressure to resign. It was met with public fury and he eventually stepped down.