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‘Councillors aware of abuse scandal details but were told to keep quiet’

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Councillors were told details of the Rotherham child sex exploitation scandal nearly 10 years ago, a veteran former politician admitted to an angry crowded public meeting.

Details of the abuse were revealed to them in a secret 2005 seminar – but councillors were told to keep quiet, so as not to ‘jeopardise police investigations’, former councillor Brian Cutts, aged 81, said. “There is not a single person in this room who didn’t know what was going on at the time,” he told yesterday’s cabinet meeting.

Several current and former members admitted attending the seminar – but insisted they were ordered not to act.

Members of the authority’s cabinet met yesterday for the first time since the Jay Report, to discuss revelations about the abuse of 1,400 girls over 16 years between 1997 and 2013.

Deputy council leader Paul Lakin told the public he was ‘deeply sorry’ for the ‘inexcusable and unacceptable’ failure to protect young people.

Former councillor Mr Cutts said: “I knew about the abuse eight years ago. It is this chamber that is responsible for the failings.

“There is not a single person in this room who didn’t know what was going on at the time. Does this council not feel it should stand down?”

The admission prompted members of the public to call for the arrest of Mr Cutts, with cries of, “You should be arrested and put in prison, why didn’t you do anything?”.

Coun Ken Wyatt told the meeting he too was at the seminar, but said the advice was not to speak out.

“Yes. We were aware that it was happening from the seminar,” he said, but added he was not aware of the scale.

“We were assured at the seminar the police were watching and taking appropriate measures. We were told any information we released would jeopardise the police inquiry.”

Coun Sue Ellis admitted she was also at the seminar. She said: “It would be a very brave person that went out and jeopardised the prosecutions.

“If you are asking, ‘Would I do things differently now?’, of course I would. We have all failed people in Rotherham.”

Three members of the public stormed out of the meeting, one shouted, “I have had enough. Resign all of you. Hang your heads in shame.”

Coun Lakin told The Star afterwards the secret seminar was ‘part of normal council procedure’.

“It’s not unusual that information is shared with councillors on a need-to-know basis. There has to be some system that allows members to discuss issues on a need-to-know basis. They may contain personal information for instance.”

He said more investigations are ongoing following the four Labour councillor suspensions.

 

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