New call for police boss to quit
Beleaguered South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner (PCC) Shaun Wright has been urged to resign by councillors in the biggest local authority in his area as they unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in him.
Mr Wright has resisted top-level calls for him to step down since the publication of Professor Alexis Jay's report last week which outlined how at least 1,400 children in Rotherham were subjected to sexual exploitation between 1997 and 2003.
The PCC, who was elected in 2012, was the Rotherham councillor with cabinet responsibility for children's services in the South Yorkshire town between 2005 and 2010 and a Labour member of the council for more than a decade.
Today, Sheffield City Council passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in Mr Wright after Labour members joined a Lib Dem call for him to go.
Mr Wright was Labour's candidate for PCC but party leader Ed Miliband has joined Prime Minister David Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May and deputy South Yorkshire PCC Tracey Cheetham, who resigned last week, in calling for him to go.
When Labour threatened to throw him out following the publication of the report, Mr Wright reacted by resigning from the party.
Mr Wright issued a statement before the Sheffield vote today which said: " The findings of Prof Jay's report are not about one person or one organisation.
"These findings are about taking a multi-agency approach to dealing with bringing the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice.
"I've had many messages of support, many of which are from partners, encouraging me to remain and to continue my work on prioritising and tackling the extremely important issue of child sexual exploitation (CSE). I'm sure that all partners involved in tackling this issue will work with me to do just that for the sake of past victims and for the sake of safeguarding potential future victims."
As Sheffield councillors met to discuss Mr Wright, Rotherham Council's Labour-ruled cabinet met to discuss Prof Jay's report.
The deputy leader of Rotherham Council, Paul Lakin, told an angry and emotional public meeting that he was "appalled" by the contents of the report, which revealed how huge numbers of girls, and some boys, were raped, trafficked, threatened with extreme violence and ignored by the statutory authorities.
The councillor offered his apologies to the victims of the abuse in the South Yorkshire town but fellow members of the ruling Labour cabinet also protested that they were not aware of the scale of the problem until recently.
Mr Lakin's comments came as Mr Cameron told MPs that social services bosses should face the sack if they fail to protect children from abuse.
The meeting of the cabinet of Rotherham Council was punctuated by shouting from the packed public galleries and interjections from opposition Ukip councillors.
One woman yelled at the councillors: "We are very angry and we don't know why all of you haven't resigned."
Other calls for the councillors to resign were greeted with applause.
Mr Lakin said: "We have all been appalled by the terrible contents of this report."
Making opening comments, he said: " It is with a deep sense of regret that we are here today to discuss how, in the past, as a council, we badly let down young people and families we were supposed to protect. The failings outlined in the Jay Report are unacceptable and inexcusable."
The meeting started with questions from the public, with one man asking the councillors to explain why they did not act following a seminar about child sexual exploitation around a decade ago.
Replying, councillor Ken Wyatt said: "Yes, we knew that it was happening, especially from that seminar.
"That seminar also covered the issue of it being a national problem."
Mr Wyatt added: "It was not at the scale we have subsequently found out."
He said the councillors at the seminar were told the matter was being dealt with by the police.
The Jay Report sparked a wave of criticism of police, councillors and local authority officials but only council leader Roger Stone has resigned in its wake.
South Yorkshire chief constable David Crompton has offered his apologies and announced that his force's actions will be independently investigated by another force.
Today, one of his predecessors said he was completely unaware of the systematic sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham during his time in charge of the force.
Mike Hedges, who was chief constable from 1998 to 2004, said the issue was never brought to his attention.
In a statement issued today, Ged Fitzgerald, Rotherham Council's chief executive from 2001 to 2003, said: "My thoughts are with all of the vulnerable young people who were exploited and let down by the care and protection systems in Rotherham across the council and South Yorkshire Police over a long period of time. I abhor the actions of the perpetrators of abuse, both those who have been caught and those who have not yet been caught.
"The publication of the report into child sex exploitation, and the media coverage which has followed, has raised questions about my tenure as chief executive of Rotherham Council between 2001 and 2003.
"Given the comments that have been made, and the associated media coverage, I will be discussing this matter in some detail with my current employers at Liverpool City Council in the coming days. I endorse the calls being made for a public inquiry and will continue to assist voluntarily and openly any investigation, review or public inquiry into this extremely serious matter.
"However, until the next steps are clearer in respect of any formal or judicial processes set up as a consequence of the Rotherham report, and discussions to be held with the mayor of Liverpool, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this stage."
Last week, Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said he would speak to Mr Fitzgerald, now chief executive of Liverpool City Council, about what he knew about a Home Office report that revealed widespread sexual abuse of under-age girls in Rotherham.