Scores of protesters make their voices heard on the day Nigel Farage came to town.
‘Justice for the victims’, was the message emblazoned on placards as the people of Rotherham came out in their droves to call for action in the wake of the latest damning child abuse report.
On the day Nigel Farage came to town to back UKIP candidate’ Jane Collins’ election campaign, scores of protesters made the voice of Rotherham heard in the wake of the Casey Report.
The damning dossier highlighted Rotherham Council’s ‘utter’ failure to take the issue of child abuse in the town seriously – even after the publication of the explosive Jay Report, which said at least 1,400 children had been sexually abused in the town by men of mainly Pakistani heritage.
It also accused the council of being in ‘resolute denial’ about the child abuse, with 70 per cent of senior council figures interviewed attempting to discredit the Jay Report.
It led to the resignation of the entire council cabinet – and the whole council will be forced to stand for election again in 2016.
Mum-of-three Eleanor Price, aged 28, from Parkgate, said: “I’m really not that surprised to be honest.
“Because they don’t want to answer for what they have done, they have taken the easy route.
“I think the council should be made to face up to what it has done.”
It is a feeling echoed across the town.
Sean Heeley, aged 47, from Kimberworth, said: “I go to the Rotherham home games every Saturday and all you hear from the away fans is abusive chants about child sex abusers.
“It’s really bad for the image of the town.”
A woman who cannot be named because she was a victim of child abuse, said: “I don’t let my kids play out any more. I don’t feel like they are safe.
“I don’t let any men near my children.
“Even my own family, like cousins and uncles, I won’t let them take my children anywhere.
“It used to be that you could go anywhere but it’s not like that today.”
Politicians have also slammed the findings of the report.
UKIP has called on Government to move the proposed 2016 Rotherham Council elections forward, in line with the national elections in May.
Leader Nigel Farage visited the town on Friday to launch his election campaign – although his visit was cut short by protesters.
He said: “I think the people of Rotherham need to have the opportunity to vote and to vote for change if that’s what they want
“I have my view but ultimately its what the people think that is right and we are told they can’t vote for the whole council until next year – I think that’s wrong.
“I think on May 7, when we have a general election, the whole of Rotherham Council should be up and the people here should have a chance to vote.”
Rotherham Council’s interim chief executive Jan Ormondroyd said: “Louise Casey’s report describes a catalogue of cultural and system failings, and we have accepted its findings.
“The council could and should have done more in the past and we apologise for the devastating impact that this has had on the lives of the people of Rotherham.
“What Rotherham needs now is a move towards stability, a clear way forward and the fresh start which Louise Casey and her team have called for.”
Business leaders call on town to unite
Key Rotherham business leaders are calling for the town to unite in the wake of the latest damning scandal.
Andrew Denniff, chief executive of Rotherham and Barnsley Chamber of Commerce, spoke of frustration among businesses and residents looking for a fresh start.
Other businesses say they have struggled to attract custom given the damage done to the town’s image - even before the latest report came out.
Brian Johnston, owner of Cochineal in the town centre, said: “Four businesses here are going to be closing in the coming months.
“They just can’t sustain it with the drop in footfall over the last six months.
“Footfall has fallen dramatically. We have been saying this for the last six months and the council has not listened to anything that we have said.
“People aren’t coming because they have been put off by the negative image of Rotherham.
“Just when we thought we were starting to get back to normal, this happens.”
Chamber chief Mr Denniff said the solution was to pull together.
He said: “I think there’s a frustration out there, felt not only by businesses but by anybody who lives and works in Rotherham.
“This is not the town that we know.
“We have to come together to try to find solutions to this. We have to look for a fresh start.
“We understand that the Government is bringing five commissioners in to take control of the running of the town.
“From our point of view as a chamber, we want to work with them as soon as they are appointed, to provide help and assurance that we can be involved in that fresh start.
“Are businesses still going to come to Rotherham? Will investors in Rotherham be put off?
“These are things we are going to have to address. We can only do this by working together.
“We all have to accept that what is in the report is a reflection of what has been going on in Rotherham.
“As a Chamber of Commerce, we have a role to play. In simple terms, we have to be part of the solution.”
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