Former Rotherham Council leader Roger Stone has said the damning Louise Casey review felt like a ‘witch hunt’.
In a written 19-page statement to MPs, Mr Stone said he also feels the town has been subject to ‘demonisation’ and ‘trial by media’ in the wake of the child sexual exploitation scandal.
Mr Stone broke his silence for the first time this week since resigning in August as Professor Alexis Jay’s independent inquiry was published.
Prof Jay found at least 1,400 children in the town had been victims of abuse between 1997 and 2013, while a follow-up Government review by civil servant Louise Casey said the council was still ‘in denial’ about grooming.
The second report resulted in Government-appointed commissioners being brought in to run the council.
Mr Stone said the findings of the Jay report had been ‘shocking’, but added ‘nothing could be further from the truth’ than the idea the council ‘ignored it or covered it up’. He said he did not agree with the findings of the Casey report.
“It does feel like a witch hunt and not a fair and evidenced assessment of the governance capabilities of Rotherham or a rigorous exposition of the failures on CSE set in context,” he said.
“To impose commissioners on the basis of a short review which was dealing with historic issues is not serving the interests of local democracy. Because of the horrific nature of the crimes involved there has been little challenge of what has happened.
“There has been a large degree of trial by media and a degree of ‘who can be most righteously indignant’.”
He also said: “I regret the demonisation of the town and the effect on local people. Great attempts have been made to portray Rotherham as ‘different’ both to justify the removal of the democratic rights of the people of the town and to avoid having to face the uncomfortable truth that if Rotherham isn’t different then the issue of child sexual exploitation is bigger than people think.”