Former Rotherham Council leader refuses to hand back OBE in wake of abuse scandal

Roger Stone gives evidence to MPs
Roger Stone gives evidence to MPs
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Disgraced ex-Rotherham Council leader Roger Stone has refused to return his OBE for services to local government.

Mr Stone said he did not feel the findings of the Jay report, which revealed at least 1,400 children had been abused in the town over a 16-year-period, meant he should hand back the honour.

Asked by MPs during a Communities Committee hearing whether he should return the OBE, Mr Stone said: “No, no, no, no. At the end of the day it’s not just about the politics of Rotherham, it is about the wider things done in Europe rather than regionally and nationally.”

Mr Stone, who was council leader from 2003, also insisted he had been a fit person to lead the authority - despite much of the abuse scandal happening while he was in charge.

Mr Stone said attempts had been made to raise concerns about child grooming with South Yorkshire Police, but there had been a ‘sexist’ attitude within the force at the time.

He said: “They did tend to have more of a wanting to pick up the young girls rather the perpetrators, possibly because they didn’t believe them and thought at the time the girls were enticing the men.

“There were a sexist attitude at that particular time.

“We asked fairly regularly why aren’t you arresting somebody? We were told the Crown Prosecution Service says there isn’t enough evidence.”

Mr Stone also defended his former deputy leader Jahangir Akhtar, after the Casey report said some councillors and officers spoke of him with a ‘level of fear’.

Mr Stone said: “Akhtar was the only cabinet member that was elected by the group. If they didn’t like him, they could have deselected him.”

Concerns were raised in the recent Casey report that councillors with a Pakistani background had a ‘disproportionate influence in the council, particularly on issues which appeared to affect the Pakistani heritage community such as the taxi trade’. It followed the Jay report finding the majority of abusers in the town were alleged to be of Pakistani heritage.

When asked by MPs about whether issues relating to the Rotherham’s Pakistani community were left to councillors of the same background, Mr Stone said that was not correct.

But he added police would sometimes approach Mr Akhtar and fellow councillor Mahroof Hussain for assistance.

“There were times if there were police problems, the police would go to Akhtar or Mahroof first to help them in their community,” he said.

“It was working together.”

Mr Stone did say he regretted the move to bring youth outreach programme Risky Business under closer council control, but said it had never been closed.

He said he did try to tackle grooming, but was reliant on officers and cabinet members to do specific work. “I couldn’t stop what was happening but we were trying to make it less and better. The only way I could operate was depending on professionals.”

He also admitted he had resisted the idea of an independent inquiry into abuse in the town, but agreed after other cabinet members said it should happen.